Deandre Ayton spends end of Game 3 win for Suns on bench

May 5, 2023, 10:10 PM | Updated: May 6, 2023, 12:40 am

PHOENIX — Deandre Ayton earned a hook from Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams with five minutes left in a close Game 3 with the Denver Nuggets leading their second-round series 2-0 on Friday.

The Suns held on to win 121-114, bringing the Nuggets’ series lead to 2-1.

Williams turned to backup center Jock Landale after Ayton missed a layup with a relatively clear path to the basket with Phoenix leading 103-94 in the fourth quarter with about six minutes remaining. On the next play, Ayton rebounded a miss, but Denver’s Bruce Brown popped the ball out of his hands from behind leading to a Nikola Jokic 5-footer to make it 103-96.

Williams called Landale to the scorer’s table after that sequence. A few possessions later, the Suns called timeout and Ayton was still pulled after the reset.

Guards Damion Lee and Cam Payne appeared to speak with Ayton to get his head right, and while the center showed frustration about being benched, he re-engaged the next time Phoenix huddled for a break.

Ayton played 26 minutes and scored four points to go with nine rebounds.

Landale ended at 22 minutes with six points and nine rebounds with, by the eye test featured significantly more success running against Nuggets star Nikola Jokic.

Jokic had 28 points, 17 rebounds and 17 assists — the first player in NBA history to have a 25-15-15 game in the playoffs.

It wasn’t the only surprising bench performance from Phoenix.

T.J. Warren made his first appearance of the series and scored seven points, including five late fourth-quarter points. He had a team-best plus-minus of +18.

Devin Booker added 47 points to go with nine assists, and Kevin Durant added 39 points and eight dimes.

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