Suns’ Ayton: ‘I feel like I should thank the NBA for gifting me with a Christmas gift of playing on Christmas Day’

The Phoenix Suns continued their winning ways Thursday night as they defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 113-101 at Footprint Center.

Devin Booker scored a game-high 30 points, 15 of which came in the third quarter, to go along with seven rebounds and seven assists.

The Suns(26-5) extended their winning streak to five games, and also extended their home winning streak to 15.

After trailing by five in the third, Phoenix used a 28-10 run to take complete control of the game, and OKC never threatened after that. 

Now, it’s onto their big Christmas Day showdown against the Warriors(26-6) at Footprint Center. The last time the Suns played on Christmas Day was back in 2009.

Many of Phoenix’s players have not experienced Christmas Day basketball, including Deandre Ayton and Cam Johnson, and both are super excited.

“I’m not going to lie, I feel like I should thank the NBA for gifting me with a Christmas gift of playing on Christmas Day,” Ayton, who added 19 points and 12 rebounds against OKC, said. “A lot of guys that aren’t playing on Christmas are going to be opening their gifts, probably working out, probably getting ready for the next game, but me, I got kids waking up to go see Deandre and the Phoenix Suns play. That’s an honor. You can’t take that for granted. Stuff like that is just hard work. People recognizing us, just winning and stuff like that, and this is the reward. We just have to be grateful and not take it for granted at all.”

Cam Johnson, who scored 21 points on 7-of-7 shooting from the field, including a 5-of-5 from downtown against OKC, added: “I’ll be honest with you, I’m viewing it as my first time, ever in my life, playing a basketball game on Christmas—watched NBA games every Christmas since I was a little kid, just the opportunity to go and play in that game. I like the time of the game, 3 P.M.; I’m hoping it stays that way, we show up, get to it. It’s like a dream come true, playing on Christmas, getting out there, and I’m just super excited for that. Never mind whatever else might be going around, just excited to have that game.”

Phoenix is 1-1 against the Warriors this season, and both games had a playoff feel. According to Chris Paul, playing Golden State is a good test for the Suns.

“Playing against Golden State, they always make you think, playing against the Lakers, Milwaukee, all those good teams,” he said. “They’re going to make you think the game, so it’s always a good test for us because every team is different.”

Phoenix and Golden State are the two best teams in basketball, so Saturday’s game against the Warriors should be a lot of fun.

Watch below as Ayton talks win over OKC, playing Warriors on Christmas Day:

Suns’ Booker: ‘We have a target on our back’

With 8:50 left in the second quarter, the Cleveland Cavaliers(3-4) had a 14-point lead (42-28) on Saturday night. However, the Suns closed out the half on a 22-4 run to take a 50-46 lead into halftime, sparking what would go on to be a 50-12 run.

Phoenix(2-3) opened up the second half outscoring Cleveland 28-8 to take a 78-54 lead with 4:15 remaining in the third quarter, and they defeated the Cavaliers 101-92 at Footprint Center.

Devin Booker scored a game-high 27 points to go along with nine assists, seven of which came in the first half, and Chris Paul had his third double-double of the season with 16 points and 10 assists. Before exiting in third with a right leg contusion, Deandre Ayton tallied 17 points and a team-high 12 rebounds.

Before this game, Phoenix was winless(0-2) at home and on a two-game losing streak, but they busted out in the second quarter and never looked back.

“I think we were probably just on a string a little bit more,” Paul said about the 50-12 run. “Communicating a little bit better, and I think that helps everything—our offense, our defensive intensity picked up everything.”

Cam Johnson, who scored 10 points on Saturday, added about the 50-12 run: “We think we’re capable of that all the time. You keep your head down, keep pushing, keep trying to get better, keep trying to get back to high-level championship basketball. I think we’ve got a good team, good guys that always stick together, and that period of the game showed it. We can still obviously be so much better. If we went on that part 50-12, then what do we do the rest of the game? Cleaning all that stuff up going forward is going to be big for us.”

For the Cavaliers, who were on the second game of a back-to-back after losing to the Lakers on Friday night, fatigue might have been an issue, according to Kevin Love, who had a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds.

“I feel like you could tell by the way that we shot it, pretty much across the board, that we were pretty fatigued,” Love said. “I don’t think we’ve shot the ball well from three all year; a number of us haven’t, me included. Fatigue played a big part in this, and I think you have to tip your hat to them; they were very hungry for the win. That’s a really good team down there in the other locker room.” 

The Cavs are now 2-2 on their five-game road trip.

Last season, Phoenix snuck up teams and ultimately became Western Conference champions, but now, they can’t sneak up on anybody, which Booker discussed postgame.

“We have a target on our back,” Booker said. “People watched what we did last year and probably have something to prove, so you’re not going to catch anyone off guard, and you’re going to get everybody’s best. It’s going to be a great crowd anytime you come to Phoenix, and people get hyped up for that, and we need the same energy.”

Best of the Rest:

-With 10 assists tonight, Chris Paul now has 10,328 in his career and is seven assists away from passing Mark Jackson (10,334) for fourth on the NBA’s all-time career assists list and eight away from passing Steve Nash (10,335) for third on the all-time list.

-Cedi Osman scored a game-high 20 points for Cleveland tonight, knocking down six three-pointers on 12 attempts. It marked Osman’s 24th career game of 20+ points and the first this season. His six three-point field goals matched a career-high, which he’s now done three times in his career, all on the road.

What’s Next:

Suns continue their five-game homestand on Tuesday night against former friend Willie Green and the Pelicans, and the Cavaliers finish their five-game road trip on Monday against the Hornets.