Phoenix Suns: Does Ayton’s fire to show up Luka still burn?

Phoenix Suns (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

The Phoenix Suns play the Dallas Mavericks in the second regular-season game of NBA bubble action. Will Deandre Ayton play angry once again?

The one and only other time the Phoenix Suns played the Dallas Mavericks this season, I wondered (and hoped) Deandre Ayton would play angry. Coming off a 25 game suspension and in the midst of one of the several spurts of Luka mania, the, “Ah! The Suns should have drafted Luka Doncic” sentiment was near an all-time high.

The voices were loud and there is no doubt Ayton heard them.

I wanted him to channel those high-volume doubts into a rage and show everyone he wasn’t such a bad number one overall pick after all. More importantly, do it against Luka and the Mavericks.

Strangely enough, he did.

Deandre Ayton lit it up for the Phoenix Suns last time they played the Mavs.

In that game, his typical goofy persona morphed into a determination Phoenix Suns fans were not used to seeing and it showed up in the box score. Ayton poured in a season-high 31 points and grabbed nine rebounds in a 133-104 blowout victory in Dallas.

On top of that, Luka was not typical Luka, as he put up a modest 21 points and only dished out two assists. It’s not like Ayton guarded him and shut him down, but the head-to-head comparison was still there.

The game was only a blip on the NBA radar and in the careers of these players, but now that the NBA bubble is here and dare I say, the Suns are fighting for a chance to make the playoffs, can history repeat itself?

Can Ayton and his newfound 3-point shot crank up his internal motivation dial and play with the same level of, “I’ll prove you all wrong!” mentality as the last time he went up against the Mavericks?

Think of it like this. What if Deandre Ayton had Jevon Carter‘s hustle? The Bulldog, known primarily for his nonstop tenacity and inability to scare, makes the most of his below-average size and athletic ability.

If Carter’s mindset were to be infused into Deandre Ayton and all of his natural physical tools, it could be possible that Ayton already holds every all-time NBA record for every stat in existence.

Ultimately, though, Ayton is a finesse-first guy and no amount of spite or teammate osmosis is going to change that. However, for his game, I once again wonder (and hope) if the fire Ayton channeled against the Mavericks in January will rage again this evening in Orlando.

Tip-off is at 6:00 p.m. Arizona time on Fox Sports Arizona and NBA League Pass.

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