Devin Booker challenges ex-teammate Deandre Ayton to keep playing “extra hard” after Suns defeat Blazers in NBA In-Season Tournament

Devin Booker has started the 2023 season on an exceptional note, playing a vital role in leading the Phoenix Suns to victory in their recent game. With an outstanding performance, Booker proved yet again why he is considered one of the league’s most talented shooting guards. However, his success hasn’t diminished his competitive spirit.

In a post-game interview, Booker challenged his former teammate and current Blazers player, Deandre Ayton, to elevate his game and maintain a relentless drive on the court, as he believes that Ayton has the potential to be a dominant force and wants to see him push himself even harder in order to excel.

Devin Booker talks on facing ex-teammate Deandre Ayton

In the NBA In-Season Tournament clash against the Portland Trail Blazers, the Phoenix Suns showcased their revamped roster and secured a convincing 120-107 win. An intriguing subplot to the game was the Suns facing their former teammate, Deandre Ayton, for the first time since his departure. Despite the widespread changes, Devin Booker, who played alongside Ayton for five seasons, noticed Ayton’s commendable effort on the court.

Devin Booker
Via Yahoo Sports

Following the game, Devin Booker acknowledged Ayton’s increased intensity, remarking, “He played extra hard tonight. I saw that.” However, Devin Booker issued a challenge to Ayton, urging him to maintain this level of play consistently. “My challenge for him is to play like that every night,” Booker stated, emphasizing the importance of Ayton’s unwavering dedication.

Throughout the contest, Portland repeatedly tested Ayton defensively, but he responded admirably, registering 18 points on 14 shots, along with eight rebounds and four assists. Despite being a minus-33 on the night, Ayton’s contributions were notable, especially considering the youthful, injury-riddled Blazers roster.

Ayton’s work ethic has long been a topic of conversation in Phoenix, and while head coach Frank Vogel expressed optimism about the center upon his appointment, the Suns opted to trade him late in the offseason. As Ayton adapts to his new team, Devin Booker’s challenge has definitely served as a reminder of the high expectations set for the talented big man.

Suns beat Blazers

Kevin Durant had a memorable night as the Phoenix Suns defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 120-107 in an In-Season Tournament game on Tuesday. Durant, playing in his 1,000th NBA game, scored 31 points and passed Elvin Hayes to secure the 11th spot on the all-time scoring list.

Devin Booker

Durant wasted no time in achieving this milestone, scoring 14 points in the first quarter alone. He finished the game with a total of 27,330 career points. Devin Booker contributed 28 points to the Suns’ impressive victory.

However, the game was not without its controversial moments. Deandre Ayton, playing against his former team, faced a hostile reception from the Phoenix crowd. Despite the boos, Ayton managed to put up 18 points and grab eight rebounds for the struggling Trail Blazers, who have now lost eight consecutive games.

In the three-team trade involving Ayton, the Suns acquired Jusuf Nurkic and Grayson Allen, both of whom had strong performances. Nurkic recorded a double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds, while Allen contributed as a starter. Jerami Grant led the Blazers with 26 points.

With this victory, the Suns extended their winning streak to four games and hold a 2-1 record in West Group A of the tournament. The Trail Blazers, on the other hand, finished group play with a 1-3 record.

The Suns will play their final group game against the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday. However, they were once again without Bradley Beal, who continues to recover from lower back spasms, and Yuta Watanabe, who has a deep bruise on his left thigh, which the Suns’ fans hope doesn’t hamper their season.

Sami Haider

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Sami Haider is an NBA writer at SportsKnot. His foray into basketball scriptwriting started in 2020, when he was enthralled by the Los Angeles Lakers' NBA championship victory. His previous experience was limited to dribbling and dunking as a neighborhood kid. His insightful writings show how much he loves the sport. His writing goes beyond numbers and scores, giving readers a unique viewpoint on the players, teams, and events that define the basketball scene. Whether you're a die-hard fan or a casual observer, Sami's work is essential for anybody trying to expand their knowledge and love of the NBA.


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