LAS VEGAS (AP) —Deandre Ayton pointed to the rim, asking for a lob. The pass came from Shaquille Harrison, and Ayton snared it in his right hand before slamming down a dunk.
And thousands of Phoenix Suns fans roared.
In that one moment, they saw a glimpse of what their team’s future may look like. The No. 1 pick in this year’s draft made his debut at the NBA Summer League on Friday night, and he walked off a winner as the Suns topped the Dallas Mavericks 92-85.
Ayton played 22 minutes, scoring 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting, with the alley-oop in the opening minutes being his first basket. He also grabbed eight rebounds, blocked a shot and committed five fouls.
“A lot of energy,” Ayton said, when asked for the takeaway from his first NBA game – albeit just of the summer variety. “I could feel the energy around.”
Davon Reed and Mikal Bridges made things easy for Ayton and the Suns, each shooting 4 for 5 from 3-point range. Reed led the Suns with 18 points, while Bridges added 14.
“They showed up,” Ayton said. “Some of these guys, they’re vets, they execute plays. They’re loud, vocal,” Ayton said. “I felt very comfortable.”
Jalen Jones scored 16 points and Dennis Smith Jr. added 14 for Dallas (0-1). Luka Doncic did not play for Dallas, as he still awaits his clearance from his Real Madrid deal – which has to arrive before he can sign his contract with the Mavericks.
“I’m just excited to be here,” Doncic told ESPN in an in-game televised interview.
Three Things to Know: Raptors stave off creeping doubt
Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.
1) The Raptors got a much-needed win over the Celtics. Toronto had lost five of eight, including two straight – to the Celtics and Cavaliers, its chief competition in the Eastern Conference. The Raptors had been the East’s best team throughout the season. A “reset” offense and a deep bench seemingly had them poised for playoff success. But this late skid instilled plenty of doubt in a team that has disappointed annually in the postseason.
A 96-78 win over Boston ought to calm panic in Toronto.
This wasn’t the prettiest game, but the Raptors played with more purpose. They defended more aggressively, kept the ball moving and relied on balanced contributions. Kyle Lowry made a positive impact the day after his dud against Cleveland, which followed him going to San Antonio to watch Villanova win the national championship. The reserves came up big.
These weren’t necessarily the Celtics that Toronto would face in the postseason. Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart and Shane Larkin were out. Boston used 11 players through three quarters.
But that only increased the impetus for the Raptors to win.
They didn’t prove anything last night. This team can’t do that until the playoffs, anyway. But at least Toronto stopped the bleeding (of a boo-boo that probably looked worse than it actually was).
2) The Mavericks out-tanked the Magic. Dallas’ 105-100 loss to Orlando might wind up last night’s most significant game on the NBA’s long-term landscape. The defeat dropped the Mavericks (24-55) ahead of the Magic (24-54) in the tight tank race.
But Gordon (20 points in 26 minutes) did too much in his limited playing time and got the Magic the unneeded win.
3) The Spurs fell to the Lakers, but at least remain in playoff position. Last night’s games otherwise featured chalk between a team in the playoff race and a team not – 76ers over Pistons, Heat over Hawks, Pelicans over Grizzlies. But San Antonio fell to Los Angeles, 122-112, in overtime.
The Lakers, without their own draft picks this year, are still feisty. They’ve got nothing to tank for. Kyle Kuzma scored 30 points, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (21 points on nine shots) and Channing Frye (19 points on nine shots) were remarkably efficient.
The Spurs still haven’t clinched a playoff berth, so a loss to an eliminated team is a real letdown.
The Western Conference playoff-race standings now:
4. Utah Jazz (45-33)
5. Oklahoma City Thunder (45-34)
5. San Antonio Spurs (45-34)
7. Minnesota Timberwolves (44-34)
7. New Orleans Pelicans (44-34)
9. Denver Nuggets (43-35)
10. Los Angeles Clippers (42-36)
Tonight will feature a couple big games – Clippers at Jazz and Timberwolves at Nuggets.