Ayton Scores Career-High 33 Points, Including a 24-Point Quarter

by Cody Cunningham

After a tough game against the Oklahoma City Thunder the night prior, the Phoenix Suns were back on the court as they tipped off against the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night.

The Suns looked like a team on the second night of a back-to-back early on in the game as they shot just 30 percent from the field and were down by 20 points by the end of the first quarter. The Nuggets extended their lead to 25 just a few minutes into the second quarter and the game looked to be getting out of hand.

But then Deandre Ayton showed exactly why the Suns selected him first overall this summer.

After finishing the first quarter with just one point on two attempts, the Suns began to feed Ayton the ball in the paint and the first-year pro began to go to work. With dunks, layups, tips and jumpers, Ayton showed off his offensive skill set as he scored 24 points in just the second quarter. 

Ayton’s 24-point quarter was the sixth-highest scoring quarter in Suns franchise history and the highest by any Suns rookie ever. It was also the most points in a quarter by an NBA rookie since Brandon Jennings scored 29 in 2009.

The 20-year-old brought the Suns back into the game and looked well on his way to a career-night.

Unfortunately for the Suns, the Nuggets weren’t going to let them back into the game that easily. Denver extended their lead back up to 23 in the third quarter and it would take another strong comeback in order for the Suns to have a chance to win.

So that’s exactly what they fought to do, but this time with Devin Booker. 

Booker had remained relatively quiet for his standards with just 15 points heading into the fourth quarter, but the young star knew he would have to step up in order for his team to battle back.

Midway through the fourth, Booker made a layup to bring the deficit to 14 and seemed to catch fire from there. 

In a span of just three and a half minutes, Booker scored 12 of the Suns 16 points to bring the game back in the reach. The team was still down by seven and would need some big shots to still fall.

Those clutch moments would come courtesy of T.J. Warren and Mikal Bridges. Both wings hit two threes within the final few minutes to continuously cut the deficit, twice to a one-possession game.

However, even Bridge’s three-pointer with two seconds remaining to bring the Suns to within just three wasn’t enough as Denver was able to close out the game at the free throw line. The Suns ultimately fell to the Nuggets 122-118.

“It’s unbelievable,” Booker said about his teammate’s performance. “Just every game he is getting better. He’s taking steps, major steps every game.”

Ayton scored a career-high 33 points while also grabbing 14 and four steals. According to Basketball-Reference, Ayton became the first rookie to shoot at least 80% on 20+ FGA in a game since Hakeem Olajuwon in 1984. 

Booker continued his 25-point streak, notching that mark in a career-long eight straight games. The 22-year-old finished with 27 points, eight assists and a steal.

Booker now has six straight games of at least 25 points and eight assists, joining Michael Jordan, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, LeBron James and Dwayne Wade as the only players to do so in the last 35 years.

“That’s lit for sure,” Booker said about joining that company. “To be mentioned with guys of that caliber, it just says a lot. Still grinding every day to get better, still trying to get wins, once you get wins, then everyone is going to have stats like that. It’s just taking it a day at a time and trying to get wins.” 

Warren did a little bit of everything with 22 points, three assists, three rebounds and a career-high five steals.

The Suns will continue their season-long homestand as they Golden State Warriors come to town on Monday. Be sure to catch the action on Fox Sports Arizona.