Deandre Ayton seeks revenge, redemption in 2nd playoff run with Suns

Apr 15, 2022, 5:00 PM | Updated: Apr 16, 2022, 3:53 pm
Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns reacts during the second half of the NBA game at Footprint Ce...
Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns reacts during the second half of the NBA game at Footprint Center on December 23, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Thunder 113-101. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The 2022 NBA postseason is finally upon us. No more talk. Just ball. Win or go home.

And after falling to the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Finals last season, Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton is more than ready for his second run at the franchise’s first title.

The 23-year-old is coming off a 2021-22 campaign in which he saw career highs in field goal percentage (63.4%) and free throw percentage (63.9%) en route to an average of 17.2 points and 10.2 boards per contest.

In last year’s 22-game postseason run, Ayton posted 15.8 points and 11.8 rebounds while shooting 65.8% from the floor and 73.6% from the charity stripe — which the 6-foot-11 Bahamian hopes spills over into this year’s playoffs.

“Just doing all the same things but better,” Ayton told reporters after practice on Friday. “Last year I think mainly it was just me on the defensive end but now I’m attacking teams. It’s not going to be me, ‘Oh I’m under the rim scoring.’

“No, I want to be under the rim. I want to score. I want to get to the line. Just second-chance baskets, just doing the stuff I did last year and doing more and doing better.”

And with the Suns finishing the regular season as the NBA’s best team at a franchise-record of 64-18, Phoenix will have homecourt advantage throughout the entirety of the postseason.

But that doesn’t mean the team isn’t looking forward to taking its talents on the road. In fact, the Suns have embraced a new persona while being away from home.

“Yes we do, especially on the road. We got some villains now,” Ayton said. “Crowds don’t like us for some reason. They don’t understand that when y’all talk smack, we’re going to smack your team. So that’s just the motivation — it’s us against the world for real. People hate us when we’re on the road. We like it, we love it.

“A lot of people call us a fluke and we heard the same noise last year. And all it does is amp us up and made us a whole when we’re on the road and play as a unit. So on the road, nothing really phases us. It’s just us and once I know my boys got my back it’s good. And they know I got theirs. It’s like playing at home — we just don’t hear our fans.”

The Suns host the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday in Game 1 of the Western Conference quarterfinals at 6 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

“Me personally, it don’t matter,” Ayton said. “I just got this fire and I’m ready to let it blast. We got some revenge man. We got to redeem myself. It don’t matter who I play against.”

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