Phoenix Suns centre Deandre Ayton (22) blocks the shot of Dallas Mavericks centre Christian Wood, right, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Phoenix, Wednesday. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
#By RENALDO DORSETT
#Tribune Sports Reporter
#DEANDRE Ayton concluded last season in disappointment with a season low effort against the Dallas Mavericks but he began the 2022-23 campaign with a double double in the latest edition of the budding rivalry.
#Ayton finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds and two assists in the Phoenix Suns’ 107-105 come-from-behind win over the Mavericks Wednesday night at the Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona.
#He shot 8-11 from the field in just over 30 minutes.
#Ayton notched 30 double-doubles last year in only 58 games played and is already off to a fast start in his fifth season.
#The Suns overcame a 22-point deficit capped by Damion Lee’s go ahead jumper with 9.7 left to play, but the main storyline emerging from the game was the efficiency of Ayton and and All-Star guard Devin Booker.
#Phoenix was +25 in the 27 minutes the duo played together.
#Suns head coach Monty Williams said Ayton was aggressive in spots and showed an ability to read what the defence was giving him playing off Booker.
#“It’s something that we worked on for sure but they have to execute it,” Williams said of the two-man game. “We’ll give them structure and then a lot of times they’ll go out there and talk about the angle of the screen, where he needs to be in the pocket. It certainly doesn’t work if you don’t have guys who can make plays on the back side but DA has become really good in the pocket.”
#Booker, who finished with 28 points and nine assists – both team highs – said the next evolution of Ayton’s game is the playmaking he displayed Wednesday night.
#“For him to be a dominant post-up big, mid-range big, I think that’s the next step he can take to his game — his playmaking,” Booker said of Ayton after the game. “Especially when a lot of attention is on me and Chris [Paul]. He’s usually around that free throw line being the first person you throw it to out of the double and it’s usually three-on-two or four-on-three on the back side. I think he’s going to find out that it’s going to make his job a lot easier because he’s automatic from that area where he catches it at the free throw line.”
#Ayton averaged 17.2 points on a career high 63 percent shooting from the field and 10.2 rebounds per game in 58 appearances.
#The Suns finished with an NBA best and new franchise record of 64-18 in the regular season before the second round exit at the hands of the Mavericks.
#For the second consecutive season, the Suns will be featured in a franchise record-tying 34 nationally televised games.
#A total of 22 games will be broadcast on ABC, ESPN or TNT, with an additional 12 on NBATV.
#The Sun will return to action tonight when they face the Portland Trail Blazers at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon.