5 takeaways as Deandre Ayton feasts on Jazz with 29 and 21 in Suns win

Deandre Ayton brought it again Saturday night in the second of a back-to-back.

So much so Devin Booker is having second thoughts about where he got his grub on Thursday.

“I don't know what he ate for Thanksgiving,” Booker said. “I wish I had went over there."

Ayton already said he had chicken and turkey marinating after Tuesday night's win over the Lakers, but he has since feasted on the Pistons and Jazz.

The Suns big followed a 28-point, 12-rebounds effort in Friday’s victory over Detroit with a monstrous 29 and 21 performance in Saturday’s 113-112 thriller against the Jazz before a sellout crowd of 17,071 at Footprint Center.

“He'll tell you I'm on him all the time, and this is why," Suns coach Monty Williams said after the game.

Ayton sealed the victory with an offensive rebound as time expired. Tying a career-high on the boards, Ayton posted his third career 20-20 game.

Booker went for 27 points, 11 rebounds, which is one shy of his career high, and seven assists. His four offensive rebounds tied a career high.

Mikal Bridges added 16 points, Cameron Payne chipped in 11 and Torrey Craig collected 10 as the Suns avenged a 134-133 loss at Utah last week.

Jordan Clarkson and Collin Sexton paced the Jazz (12-10) with 22 and 20 points, respectively.

Here are five takeaways from Saturday’s win on the second of a back-to-back as the Suns play at Sacramento on Monday. The Kings (10-8) are coming off a 122-104 loss Friday at Boston.

‘This should be a norm’

Ayton has had dominant stretches before.

This is just the latest as he’s posted five straight double-doubles with the last two looking like a man playing among boys.

  • At Utah – 17 and 10 (and eight assists).

  • Vs. Knicks – 13 and 11 (in 27 minutes).

  • Vs. Lakers – 14 and 15 (10 points in the fourth).

  • Vs. Pistons – 28 and 12 (11-of-13 FGs).

  • Vs. Jazz – 29 and 21 (both season highs).

“I want to be a great player,” Ayton said. “And you’ve got to be willing to put up numbers and win games night in, night out. I think I’m to that point where this should be a norm. This is how I’m supposed to play.”

The difference is he’s getting to the line.

‘Coming to the gym crazy hours’

Again, that is the most important stat because it takes his 16 to 18 points to 24, 28 or 29.

Ayton established season highs Saturday night in makes (seven) and attempts (nine) for a second straight game.

Ten is his career high for free throws made in a game and 14 is his career high for attempts. At this rate, he’ll definitely reach one of those by the end of the calendar year, if not both.

Going to the line is not just about drawing contact, but wanting to do it and understanding there is price to pay – and the reward is getting to the line.

“Just know what’s coming and initiate it,” Booker said. “Initiate it and throw the first punch and that’s what he’s been doing. We’re going to stay on him every day to be on that same type of energy every night.”

Williams provided some insight on how Ayton is “coming to the gym crazy hours” in the weight room with team head strength and conditioning coach Cory Schlesinger.

“I think he’s talking about the times I go in there and 9 p.m. and 10 p.m.,” a smiling Ayton said. “Somebody probably told him, but I definitely go in late. The latest is probably 10 p.m. and I’m going home around 12 a.m. Security knows it’s me every time I walk in.”

Ayton admitted this is the most he’s ever been in the weight room. The key is can he keep “putting the work in,” as Williams said to prepare his body to take the contact that comes with earning FTAs.

November 26, 2022; Phoenix, Ariz; USA; Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) laughs with teammates after securing the game winning offensive rebound during a game at the Footprint Center.
November 26, 2022; Phoenix, Ariz; USA; Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) laughs with teammates after securing the game winning offensive rebound during a game at the Footprint Center.

In mode

There are many layers to Booker’s game.

One of them surfaces when feeling as if he’s not getting the calls.

That mode is highly intense, sometimes reckless, but with every intention to show the referee that’s he’s going to the basket, drawing contact/getting hit, and not getting the call.

He usually has the red face going that comes after countless falls to the floor after taking the rim and smiles after seeing fouls called on him or his team and fouls not called on the opponent.

When channeled, Booker not only makes better decisions in terms of shot selection, but he also finds his teammates, such as his pass to Jock Landale that put Phoenix up 85-84 early in the fourth.

He ended up going 10-of-11 from the line, but probably believes he should’ve attempted more.

That fuels him more than one believes because as much as he’s accomplished in the last three years, Booker still wants to be respected.

November 26, 2022; Phoenix, Ariz; USA; Suns guard Devin Booker (1) drives against Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson during a game at the Footprint Center.
November 26, 2022; Phoenix, Ariz; USA; Suns guard Devin Booker (1) drives against Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson during a game at the Footprint Center.

‘Loudest five minutes I have ever seen’

Jock Landale’s family traveled from Australia to Phoenix having never seen him play an NBA game in person.

Then he didn’t see the floor against the Knicks, Lakers or Pistons.

Wow.

Then the fourth quarter came around Saturday night and Williams called his number to open it. Landale delivered with four points, a rebound and an assist on a Damion Lee 3 in five minutes.

“He had the loudest five minutes I have ever seen,” Ayton said.

See, Williams went with Bismack Biyombo for matchup purposes against New York. Felt he could match the Knicks physical size.

He did, grabbed 10 boards and Phoenix won.

Williams doesn’t fix what’s not broke.

So he played Biyombo against the Lakers and Pistons – and Phoenix won each time.

“I’m just going with Biz,” said Williams after the Detroit victory.

Less than 24 hours later and three quarters of Biyombo not leaving a major imprint on the game, Williams called on Landale. Biyombo isn’t an offensive force, but he rebounds and set a tone.

He did neither Saturday. Zero rebounds in eight minutes.

So Williams went with Landale, who gave them a spark to start the fourth – and the Suns won.

Safe bet Landale plays Monday at Sacramento.

Postseason preview?

This would be a great opening round playoff series

They’ve already played two one-point games. Got a little more chippy play out there Saturday.

Sexton is relentless in his attack. Could see him and Booker really having some physical battles as Sexton doesn’t back down.

Both teams have players who can knock down 3s, create mismatches. Highly competitive guys on both squads. The Suns have the more talented team with better chemistry, but Utah just scraps.

Those are the type of teams that cause problems like New Orleans did in last year’s playoffs against Phoenix.

The chess match between Jazz coach Will Hardy’s slick offense and Williams preaching defense would be nice to see over the course of a series.

Phoenix is first in the West while the Jazz are eighth. So there’s your 1-8 matchup already, but a 2-7 series is possible as well.

They play each other one more time in March. If that one goes down to the wire like this first two, that'll be even more reason to wish for a first round playoff series between the Jazz and Suns.

Have opinion about current state of the Suns? Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at dmrankin@gannett.com or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on Twitter at @DuaneRankin.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: 5 takeaways as Deandre Ayton feasts on Jazz with 29 and 21 in Suns win