Suns’ duo of Chris Paul, Deandre Ayton dominates again in win vs. Wizards
Dec 16, 2021, 10:58 PM | Updated: 11:00 pm
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
PHOENIX — Phoenix Suns fans should know more than most fanbases how an elite two-man game can singlehandedly win basketball games.
Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire in the Seven Seconds or Less era was one of the greatest we will ever see, and a year for chemistry to develop between Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton has done wonders.
After they dominated the Blazers in Portland on Tuesday as a duo, it was a rinse and repeat occasion for Thursday’s 118-98 win over the Washington Wizards.
To skip over some of the semantics, the Wizards were only down three in the mid-second quarter when Paul and Ayton really got after it, scoring or assisting all 17 points across a 17-8 spurt. Ayton scored nine straight points to close the half, which caused Washington’s defense to cut out his space.
That opened things up for Paul, who capitalized by knocking down three buckets in the first five minutes of the third quarter. After a Washington timeout that Paul told Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. to call, the Wizards defense crawled back up to deny Paul, which is when the Suns produced two straight baskets.
After that stretch that went a little under 12 minutes, it was a 20-point Suns lead and we were pretty much donezo.
“Around the four-ish (minute mark of the second quarter), Chris just took control of the game and DA was really good inside,” Suns head coach Monty Williams said.
The win improves the Suns to a 5-2 record while Devin Booker recovers from a left hamstring strain. Booker did a half-hour of individual court work after Thursday’s shootaround and another 15 minutes before the game. That’s a solid indicator that he’s at least ramping up and isn’t all that far away from returning.
Williams described Paul’s ability to orchestrate the game without Booker and manipulate whatever defense he gets as “exceptional.”
“I think we’re developing a lot of confidence with Book being out,” Williams said. “I think guys playing with Chris in this environment has helped us, so when we get Book back, I think we’ll be that much better.”
The game was so easily in hand that Williams was able to play Paul and Ayton only 24 minutes. That’s a nice luxury after Ayton logged a career-high 45 minutes against Portland and Paul’s 41 minutes marked just the third time in Phoenix that he’s cracked 40.
Williams said he was able to sense that the grueling overtime road win two days prior had an effect on his team at shootaround, and laughed while stating he didn’t know what to expect from his team on Thursday night because of that.
“It was good for us,” Williams said. “Winning in this league is hard, and to get a win off what we went through the other night … We were trying to figure out ways to make sure the guys were emotionally and physically ready to play today, and we were ready. And that was pretty cool.”
Ayton contributed 15 points, 10 rebounds and four assists while Paul added 12 points, five rebounds, six assists and two steals.
The Wizards have cooled off after a 10-3 start to the season churned up some discussion on if they were going to be a legitimate factor in the Eastern Conference’s playoff picture. Washington entered the night 25th in offense, per Cleaning the Glass, a rough matchup against Phoenix’s third-ranked defense.
Add in Thursday being the second game of a road back-to-back across the country for the Wizards and this looked like quite the schedule loss for them. That certainly played a part in the Suns being able to put them away and keep them there from the mid-third quarter onward, a level of execution the Suns have lacked at times this season.
What pushed the result over the edge was other Suns contributions stacking up. Eight players were in double figures, including JaVale McGee, who scored a team-high 17 points in 16 minutes.
That was a fitting team performance to counter Washington’s solo act of Bradley Beal. He was excellent, posting a game-high 26 points, all while receiving little to help without Spencer Dinwiddie (knee).
Cam Johnson’s 11 points marked the eighth straight game he’s reached double figures. He came into the night averaging 14.8 points in the six games Booker had missed, making him the second-leading scorer for Phoenix over that stretch.