Suns coach Monty Williams gave Deandre Ayton an inspiring speech during Game 2 of the NBA Finals.
Williams implored Ayton to play with "force" and reminding him he sets a high standard for himself.
Ayton responded with several key plays late, continuing an excellent postseason for the 22-year-old.
During Game 2 of the NBA Finals, ESPN cameras caught an inspiring moment between Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams and center Deandre Ayton.
During a timeout, Williams could be heard imploring the 22-year-old Ayton to "play with force."
It appeared as if Ayton was frustrated with how the game was going. Williams told him, "You're down because you set a high level for yourself."
As Ayton looked down, Williams told Ayton to look at him, reiterating the message that he could "dominate the game" without necessarily racking up counting stats.
Watch the clip below:
-NBA (@NBA) July 9, 2021
Williams' message seemed to pay off. The moment was shown with 7:37 remaining in the fourth quarter. Over the remainder of the game, Ayton had 2 points, 3 rebounds, including an offensive rebound, 1 assist, 2 steals, and a block.
The stats may not jump off the page, but Ayton's all-around contributions helped ward off a late run by the Milwaukee Bucks.
With 4:13 remaining and the Suns up by six, Ayton came up with an offensive rebound and kicked it out to Chris Paul for a three-pointer that extended the Suns' lead to nine.
On the next possession, Ayton blocked a shot by the Bucks' Khris Middleton. The Suns came down on the other end, and forward Mikal Bridges hit a floater to push the lead to 11.
After the game, Ayton said he had been disappointed with how he was playing, but Williams offered a word of encouragement to help lift Ayton.
"I didn't play the way I wanted to play ... Monty seen it on me," Ayton said. "I had my emotions on my shoulders a little bit. But he stopped me - because he knows me - and he just wanted to give me a word of encouragement, and it got me going."
Ayton has been scrutinized in his career, but he's impressed in the playoffs
Ayton was the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft - a draft that came to be known more for Luka Doncic being selected third overall and Trae Young fifth.
It's been an uphill climb for Ayton, who entered the NBA with a game better suited for big men of the 1990s. Doubts also persisted about Ayton's motor on defense and whether a big man of his size (6-foot-11, 250 lb) could defend in the modern game.
In his first playoff run, Ayton has shed almost all of those doubts, excelling in a more limited role.
As ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy said during Game 1 of the Finals - in which Ayton scored 22 points and grabbed 19 rebounds - Ayton does the three Rs: runs, rolls, and rebounds.
Those types of things don't always show up in the stat sheet. Ayton rarely gets the chance to post up opponents and look for his own shot or face up on the elbow and create. Instead, he sets screens and rolls, knowing there is a chance ball-handlers like Chris Paul and Devin Booker will shoot rather than pass.
He also cleans up the glass. His defense has been disciplined this postseason, using his length to bother opponents at the rim.
And in Game 2, he was rewarded for running back in transition.
-Sky Sports NBA (@SkySportsNBA) July 9, 2021
Ayton rarely plays outside of himself, which isn't easy for a college star, a No. 1 pick who was expected to become a franchise player.
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