Monday High 5: Booker and Ayton Shine in Playoff Debuts

Matthew JohnsonMay 24, 2021
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Phoenix is a basketball town, and it showed no rust from not being in the playoffs for the past 11 years. Phoenix Suns Arena felt full and loud on Sunday afternoon and the Suns responded with a resounding 99-90 Game 1 win over the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. That tops our look at the five biggest takeaways from the weekend in sports. 

Suns manage Chris Paul injury to beat L.A.  

Suns fans have lived through a ton of heartbreak over the decades, starting with the lost coin flip to draft Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the John Paxson shot, Amare Stoudemire’s suspension and too many Robert Horry nightmares to remember. Pain comes with the territory. That’s why every single Suns fans who ever lived imagined the worst possible outcome when starting point guard Chris Paul collapsed to the floor in the second quarter with an apparent shoulder or neck injury. The MVP-caliber veteran star had lifted the Suns to 51 regular season wins and here he was laying on the court in agonizing pain.  

Big Takeaway: After a figurative punch in the gut, Paul was able to return a few minutes laterrestoring hope to Planet Orange. His presence lifted the mood even though he wasn’t especially effective with the ball. Paul dribbled much of the rest of the game with his left hand and appeared sloppy on a few possessions. Those careless dribbles however did not cost the Suns like the turnovers that doomed the Golden State Warriors in the play-in game loss to the Lakers last week. The Suns showed they can beat the defending champs without Paul at full strength. If Paul gets back to 100 percent, Phoenix will make short work of their Pacific Division rival.  

Devin Booker shows out on the biggest stage. 

After 409 regular season games and zero playoff appearances, the Suns star shooting guard was ready for his post-season debut. Booker led the way with 34 points on 50 percent shooting in Game 1. His forceful second quarter dunk will be on highlight reels for a long time. 

Big Takeaway: This was the playoff Booker that Suns fans always believed we’d see if he got the chance. He showed us the moment wasn’t too big and we can’t wait to see what he has in store in Game 2 coming up Tuesday night in Phoenix. 

This is the Deandre Ayton we like to see. 

The Suns big man put together one of the best games of his young career, scoring 21 points on a near perfect shooting day (10 for 11) and grabbing 16 rebounds. He also stayed out of foul trouble in the second half after getting three personal fouls in the first half. Ayton had the biggest presence on the court in terms of the plus/minus stat, with a +16, the best number for any player on the court on Sunday. Ayton was so impressive, he drew this historical comparison: 

Big Takeaway: Ayton not only stood up to the test of facing the monstrous front court of the Lakers (Drummond, Davis, Harrell), he was a major reason the Suns won in Game 1. He needs to be a major reason the rest of the way if the Suns hope to make a deep playoff run. 

Phil Mickelson becomes oldest major champion in golf history. 

At the age of 50, former Sun Devil great and future World Golf Hall of Famer Phil Mickelson became the oldest man to ever win a major championship on the PGA Tour. Lefty won over the crowd walking up the 18th fairway on Sunday at Kiawah Island to capture his second career PGA Championship and the sixth major title of his brilliant career. The video gave us chills. 

Big Takeaway: This was one of the more incredible moments we’ve seen in sports in a long time. Hundreds if not thousands of golf fans stormed the fairway on 18 and Mickelson emerged from a sea of people to hit two putts and finish out the tournament. His first major win was 17 years ago at the 2004 Masters and he had not won a major since the 2013 Open Championship. It’s already an instant classic and because Phil is so likeable, his win will be debated as perhaps golf’s greatest moment ever 

Diamondbacks misery goes from bad to worse. 

The Arizona Diamondbacks lost all seven games of a sevengame road trip last week, getting swept in four by the Dodgers and swept in three over the weekend by the Rockies. The loss at Colorado on Sunday flipped the D-Backs into last place in the National League West. Arizona has now lost eight in a row and 11 of the last 12. They’ve only won four games in May with seven remaining this month. 

Big Takeaway: The D-Backs have almost nothing positive right now. They’ve scored 16 runs in the current eight-game losing streak and rank near the bottom of the National League in team batting. Starting pitcher Taylor Widener returned from the injured list only to leave Sunday’s game in the second inning with another apparent injury. Meanwhile, the pitching staff ranks near the bottom of the N.L. in team ERA.  It’s going to be a long, painful summer at Chase Field. Thankfully their neighbors in Downtown Phoenix are keeping everyone entertained during the NBA Playoffs.  

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