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Deandre Ayton forces Clippers to ditch small-ball with Game 1 performance

Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns drives to the basket against Reggie Jackson #1 of the Los Angeles Clippers in the second quarter during game one of the Western Conference Finals at Phoenix Suns Arena on June 20, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona.(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Suns center Deandre Ayton was the biggest man on the floor to start Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals and was playing as such throughout the game.

The Los Angeles Clippers started forwards Nicolas Batum and Marcus Morris Sr. against the Suns but Ayton forced LA to change the game strategy mid-way through Game 1.

“We don’t have an answer to that,” Head coach Monty Williams said on the Clippers small-ball lineup. “We do our best to put DA in a position where he isn’t rotating. I thought Jae was a huge facilitator of that tonight, making sure DA was in the right spots.”

Ayton was attacking the basket early on and was looking comfortable in the paint against the Clippers forwards.

Los Angeles switched their defensive game plan in the first half as the Suns center was getting all the open looks and sank all of his shots.

The Clippers brought in centers DeMarcus Cousins and Ivica Zubac to try and slow down the Suns’ big man.

However LA couldn’t seem to find an answer on how to stop Ayton.

The Suns were up at halftime 57-54 and Ayton led the charge for Phoenix with 14 points and four rebounds.

Ayton was also seven of eight from the field in 16 minutes of work in the first half.

Phoenix would end up on top as they defeated the Clippers 120-114 at Phoenix Suns Arena in Game 1.

As a team, the Suns shot 55.1% from the field and outrebounded the Clippers 43-39.

Ayton finished the game with 20 points, nine rebounds and added two assists on 10 of 14 shooting.


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