The first play of the evening was the tell. Deandre Ayton rolled to the hoop after setting a high screen, caught a rebounding pass from Chris Paul in stride, passed a changing Ivica Zubac, then finished with a layup and a.
Ayton was going to own the paint against Zubac and the Clippers in Game 4.
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“I’ll be honest I was outmaneuvered in the last game,” he said after helping Phoenix take a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference Finals with an 84-80 victory on Saturday. evening. “Zubac did a great job controlling the glass and being present at both ends of the ground. It was up to me to go past that or compete with that or challenge that.”
The great Phoenix man has kept his promise to be “relentless” on both sides.
He bought additional possessions with nine offensive rebounds. He finished with 22 boards, a career-high, with four blocks in 41 minutes. He remained aggressive towards the basket, including that finger rolled over a lob from Paul.
Paul knew Ayton would have that frame of mind because, he said, Ayton told him during the set that he would take care of the painting.
“I said, ‘Alright, big boy, you got it.'” Paul said.
After his two-way effort on Saturday, Ayton, 22, averaged 20.3 points, 13.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in the conference final. He’s shooting .709 from the field for the playoffs.
“To see its growth, I have goose bumps,” said Paul.
Paul was very helpful in this development. The two clashed early, but then formed a powerful pick-and-roll tandem. There is mutual respect now. Ayton, drafted first overall by the Suns in 2018, appreciates the way Paul pushes him in a way no other teammate has. He says teaming up with CP3 has been “the best thing that has ever happened to my career”.
And Paul enjoys seeing Ayton succeed as the Suns get closer and closer to the NBA Finals.
“I really love him, the person he is, and seeing everything that happens to him – a national audience finding out who he is and why he is the first choice – I couldn’t be happier for him,” Paul said.