It’s do or die time for the Phoenix Suns in their first-round series against the Los Angeles Lakers, which big man DeAndre Ayton is well aware of.
Ayton has been a bright spot for the Suns in the series, notching three consecutive double-doubles and showing the potential that made him the No. 1 overall pick of Phoenix in 2018.
With the Suns facing the possibility of a crippling 3-1 series deficit with another loss, Ayton knows it’s go-time for his squad.
“It’s going to be a dramatic type of desperation to be honest,” Ayton told reporters. “We know what we have to do.”
The Suns took Game 1, but have since fallen behind 2-1 in the series, looking outmatched in the latest matchup without a healthy Chris Paul.
“We know how we played last game,” Ayton said. “We’ve gotten enough time to get in the lab and straighten up and sharpen up some things.”
Meanwhile, the Lakers know the Suns won’t go down without a fight and expect their best shot as they hunt for the commanding series lead.
“We’ve got to have that mindset knowing that this team is going to come out with a lot of desperation,” Lakers star Anthony Davis said. “Guys might play a lot of minutes on their side. Guys are going to make shots, but we’ve got to continue to do what we do on both ends of the floor and we should be fine, but it’s going to be a big game.”
Suns Don’t Sound Optimistic About Chris Paul
Paul injured his shoulder during the early stages of Game 1 and hasn’t looked the same since. Paul did not practice on Saturday and is listed as questionable for the matchup.
“We’ll just see how it goes when he wakes up tomorrow,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “He’s played at such a high level. He’s been in MVP conversations for most of the season and then to have this happen? I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but I’d be somewhat deflated by that, but he’s a strong-willed guy.”
Paul has looked like a shadow of himself in the last two games, sitting out crunch time. He finished Game 3 with 27 minutes played, seven points and six assists. He took just eight shots during the contest.
“It is what it is: You control what you can control,” Paul said. “I know I do everything on a daily basis to prepare myself to be ready to play. When things happen, they happen. You gotta overcome it and get through it.”
Lakers Star LeBron James Says He Has Another Gear
What’s scary for the Suns is that the Lakers should only get stronger as the series continues, especially LeBron James, who is still recovering from an ankle injury that had him miss 20-plus games this season.
For the first time in a long time, James looked like he was having fun during the Game 3 victory, laughing as he backed down Suns forward Jae Crowder, igniting the Staples Center crowd and the Lakers bench.
“Obviously it’s been a rough year on me as far as physically with my ankle and dealing with that trying to get it back to where it was before the injury,” James told reporters after the game. “But every day is a step forward and we’ll continue to put the work into it with my treatment around the clock, getting it to, like I said, where it was before the injury and until then my teammates will continue to hold me down while I try to make plays for them.”
Davis said James told him he still has “another gear” he can reach.
“He’s feeling good. He told me he’s still got another gear,” Davis said. “We’re finding our groove. We’re finding our groove at the right time, but he set that tone for us and guys followed his lead and started attacking and making shots.”
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