Ayton Dominates in Paint with 18 Rebounds vs Raptors

by Cody Cunningham

Devin Booker and Isaiah Canaan returned to the starting lineup on Friday night as the Suns effort, hustle and fight led to a hard-fought battle against the Toronto Raptors.

Deandre Ayton faced a tough interior matchup against Jonas Valanciunas and Serge Ibaka, but the first overall pick put on a showcase against the veteran centers in the paint. The Big Fella finished the game with 17 points, 18 rebounds and two blocks while shooting 70 percent from the field.

“He has it,” Booker said about his teammate. “He has the grit. He has what it takes…He held his own.”

Head Coach Igor Kokoškov thought Ayton looked impressive on the court and said that his rebounding is a big part of their defensive scheme to finish the opposing possession. 

“I think he has a lot of talent,” Kokoškov said. “So it was extraordinary and great effort on his part just to show presence being in the paint and complete a play for us, complete a rebound so we can run.”

Although the team ultimately fell to the Raptors 107-98, Ayton still saw growth from the Suns through the effort they displayed.

“We showed a lot of effort from the jump and to end the game, Ayton said. “I think we improved a lot this game especially throughout the game in the past. We really stepped up on the defensive end, which is a great sign.”

Booker (18 points) and Canaan (19 points) led the way for the Suns on the offensive end as both played huge roles after missing time due to injury. Kokoškov said it was huge to have Canaan back on the court for his experience and that the team struggled to replace Booker throughout his absence.

“Having Book back and Canaan back, I mean that helps a lot,” Kokoškov said.

Booker said after the game that even though the team played with a sense of urgency throughout the contest, the most important thing is not just playing competitively, but winning.

“When we do things the right way, we have good results,” Booker said. We still can’t get comfortable with losing. No moral victories. We have to come out with wins and we talked about that after the game.”

The Suns will continue their five-game homestand on Sunday when they tip-off against the Memphis Grizzlies. Catch the action on Fox Sports Arizona.