“If Pelicans want to start the series like that, then so be it!”: DeAndre Ayton addresses hit to jaw from rookie Herb Jones in Game 1 of 2022 NBA Playoffs
|Mon Apr 18 2022
Phoenix Suns star Deandre Ayton opened up on the shoulder hit to his right jaw from rookie Herbert Jones in win over New Orleans Pelicans.
The Phoenix Suns faced off against the New Orleans Pelicans at the Footprint Center. While the Suns were on the back of a 64-win season, the Pelicans made the playoffs after beating the Clippers in a tightly contested play-in game. Although the Suns are seen as heavy favourites, the Pelicans are a well-coached, up-and-coming team that cannot be taken lightly.
However, once the game started, the Suns showed exactly why they had the best record in the league. The reigning Western Conference champions led the whole game, establishing their dominance. While the final scoreline read 110-99, there was a brief point at the end of 3rd quarter where the Pels looked like they could stage a late comeback.
GAME 2: PELICANS/SUNS
Tues. 10pm/et on TNT pic.twitter.com/SP9NA6RtF7
— NBA (@NBA) April 18, 2022
However, Chris Paul completely took over the game in the 4th quarter, putting the game out of New Orleans’ reach. As a result, the young Pelicans showed their frustration with a lot of physical fouls late in the game. And one of the victims of a such a play was DeAndre Ayton, who received a blow to the head from Pelicans rookie Herb Jones.
In the post-game press conference, the big man addressed the incident. So, what exactly did he say? Read on to find out…
DeAndre Ayton addresses hit to the head in Game 1
The incident in question took place with 3:13 left in the final quarter. After Valanciunas made a dunk, Ayton was running the floor and didn’t see rookie Herb Jones approaching. Suddenly, the forward’s shoulder hit the side of Ayton’s jaw. In fact, on first glance, it did look like the rookie was trying to avoid the 6’11 court while going to pick up CP3 full court. However, a close-up look shows the impact of Jones’ hit to Ayton’s face. Check out the clip here:
Ayton catches a shoulder to the head from Herb Jones pic.twitter.com/Kt0gBGACjK
— hoops bot (@hoops_bot) April 18, 2022
While the play was reviewed and judged as incidental play, there might have been some ill intentions behind the foul. In fact, DeAndre Ayton himself addressed the incident at the post-game press conference. He goes on to say –
“I’m fine, that’s how they want to start the series then, so be it. It’s a physical game. It’s the playoffs. Hits like that count. Regular season, you’ve got 81 more after a game like that, but we’re in the playoffs. It didn’t look like he did it intentional. So I’m not really, it’s part of the game. I’m not really going crazy over any hit.”
“If that’s how they wanna start the series, so be it”
—Deandre Ayton on his head pic.twitter.com/7aN8UqC8V4
— ’ (@_Talkin_NBA) April 18, 2022
In fact, the big man was even down on his knees post the hit. Furthermore, Ayton held each side of his head with his hands while walking to the bench where staff met him. Once in the bench area, the former 1st overall pick looked a bit dizzy and stopped walking a couple of times as teammates tended to him.
Hopefully, he isn’t placed in concussion protocols and takes the court in game 2. The 6’11 will be sorely missed if he ends up sitting out for the Suns.
DeAndre Ayton was exceptional against the Pelicans, ending the night with 21 points and 9 rebounds. However, his presence was more seen on the defensive end, as he 4 blocks and contested nearly every shot taken in the paint.