When the Phoenix Suns shocked the NBA by trading for superstar Kevin Durant in mid-season, they did so with the hopes that he would lead them to their first world championship.
But for now, the Suns are a little short of that goal after losing 125-107 to the Denver Nuggets in the first game of the Western Conference semifinals on Saturday.
Nikola Jokic had his way with Phoenix by grabbing 19 rebounds, eight of them on the offensive boards, and Suns center Deandre Ayton was too soft in the eyes of many on Saturday.
Legendary center Shaquille O’Neal had the same criticism during the “NBA on TNT” pregame show, and said he would like to see a lot more effort from Ayton.
“It’s the playoffs. I need to be physical every play out there. You called yourself ‘Domin Eaton.’ Show us. Every play.@Shaq Thinks on Deandre Ayton’s Game 1 performance pic.twitter.com/rSSpxzMwSs
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) May 1, 2023
Ayton scored 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds in 30 minutes, but this fell short of his regular season averages of 18.0 points and 10.0 rebounds a game.
Jokic is a bull down in the paint, and so Ayton needs to give it his all to neutralize the two-time league MVP.
Phoenix got outbound by 11 in Game 1, and they’ll need to rectify that deficit to get in the win column in Game 2 on Monday night.
They also need more offense from Chris Paul, who only put up 11 points, along with only five assists in Game 1.
A win in Game 2 would leave the Suns in good shape, as it would snatch home-court advantage from the Nuggets just before the series shifts to Arizona for Game 3 and Game 4.
Kevin Durant explains his thoughts about the Nuggets