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June 22, 2021

DeAndre Ayton

Phoenix Suns

Game 2: Postgame

Suns 104, Clippers 103

Q. I just want to know a few things about that last play. First of all, everybody talks about how tough a pass that was to make by Jae. If you can explain what exactly makes that a difficult pass under the circumstances, and then for you, what was the difficult part of making the play complete on your part? And have you guys ever even walked through that play before?

DEANDRE AYTON: Well, I'll start off by saying that's definitely Jae's game winner, making a great pass for a seven-footer. Other than that, Coach drew up a great play where I was in the best position. My teammates trust me and my coaches trust me, and Book set a great screen that freed me up into the lane to at least gather my feet and go for the ball, and the rest is just off my athleticism and my talent. Jae set it up right there perfectly.

Q. Just wanted to ask you a little bit about the work that you've been putting in. Monty said there's been a lot of talk about what's the difference between showing up and collecting a paycheck and showing up and actually sort of earning it. What was that process like for you to make that transition?

DEANDRE AYTON: I can say this: Monty definitely made me a super gym rat. There was times where I wouldn't even come in on days off. He used a thing called smell the gym, touch the ball at least, and he really instilled that in me where I constantly wanted to just sharpen my skills and be the best player I could be. Knowing the type of level and the type of play style we have to come with night in and night out and to be consistent in what I do, I have to be in the gym. Just to see results now at a high level and where we are right now, I don't want to get out of the gym. That's what he really instilled in me, and I kept it going.

Q. Best play of your life?

DEANDRE AYTON: Yes. Yeah. The celebration and reaction was a little shaky because I wasn't too sure what I did (laughter). I wasn't too sure if it counted. I didn't want it to be a blooper or none of that. I just wanted to get to the next play or the refs confirm what it is. I was just so anxious. I was really stressed. It was a lot. I'm looking at the fans, I'm looking at the environment. It was a lot, but that was my best play, and I tried to embrace it.

Q. We wanted to ask about that play only took 0.2 seconds for you to put it in but it seemed like it took forever for it to happen. Was it slow motion or did it happen in an instant?

DEANDRE AYTON: Knowing the play, I could see the play coming, but you don't know what teams are going to throw at you. But I trust my teammates and I trust my coaches, especially Monty, and Book set the best screen and Jae threw in the best pass. It was just me, just doing what I do best, just finishing the ball at the rim.

Q. When Coach is drawing that up, there's a lot everybody has to do, but you've got to finish it. When you're looking at that play, did you have faith?

DEANDRE AYTON: I did, a lot of faith. I had a lot of faith. I just knew if he's throwing it up, I know they trust me to finish that or do something with it while I'm in the air. Once they throw it where I could catch it, I told Jae I'm going to catch it, and he gave me the nod. There's no questioning after that. Once he said he was going to throw it, I said I'm going to catch it, and something happens, something happens. We just fix it.

Q. What do these playoffs mean for you in your career?

DEANDRE AYTON: It means a lot. Every game feels like my last. I never played so hard from the jump ball to the end, 150 percent. Usually it's like 110, but tonight it's 150 percent and it's 150 percent mentally. Just the level of focus and the things you have to really pay attention to, it's really intense. Just with fatigue and stuff like that kicking in especially, you know who's really got your back, who's locked in, and this team is it.

Q. Everyone is of course talking about the game winner but you also had that alley-oop early on in the game that got it going, and your finishing throughout this playoffs has been authoritative with lots of force. What do you feel like has unlocked for you? It seemed like it's taken to the next level.

DEANDRE AYTON: You can say dominate times 100. To be honest, like I said, being in the gym, doing the things I do consistently, approaching the game the right way. Having dudes like C, Jae, Book everybody just being on top of me showing me things and telling me things that really for longevity that I can continue for my career to be the best player I can be, stuff like running the floor hard, that's just part of basketball. That's the thing I do best is running the floor, and like Jae, you can tell he's played with a lot of great players, he's like, throwing it up that high. So it was fun tonight.

Q. On a night where Book doesn't shoot all that well, gets hit in the face and obviously still without CP, what does this win do for your confidence and the team's confidence?

DEANDRE AYTON: Mainly with this team, it don't matter who's on the floor. We play our game. We play the way we play. We're coachable and we go by a certain, let's say -- certain structure. We don't change anything, and if somebody subbed out, one of our superstars, just knowing that until that dude is back I'm going to play the same way, and that's what we do best.

Cam really stepped up, taking a lot of load, taking big shots and making some tough lay-ups, man. Just seeing how all that progress and seeing the work he's put in, yeah, he was bound to have a game like this.

Q. Matt Winer of NBA he's calling it "The Valley-Oop."

DEANDRE AYTON: I like that. I really like that.

Q. How have you seen Cam Payne's confidence grow over the time you've played together? What strikes you the most?

DEANDRE AYTON: CP has taken Cam Payne under his wing. When you see Cam Payne coming into practice with Chris Paul, you're wondering, you know -- Chris Paul is usually the one here early and you see Cam Payne right behind him and you tend to ask questions, them two been together watching film, lifting weights together stuff like that. You could tell that Cam really took a different approach to a whole other level and he did it right in front of our eyes. Like I said, he was bound to have one of these games and he's a guy who keeps it consistent. He plays hard both ends of the ball, and I just love his passion.

Q. With the lob, you've caught a whole lot of lobs in your career. When you come off the screen and you make eye contact with Jae, how were you feeling about the play? Did you feel like you were good when the ball was in the air?

DEANDRE AYTON: Me and Cam -- once I set that first screen for Cam, I tried to set up Zubac to have a good angle on him, and I believe once my feet touched the paint where I can go upright, left, one, two, not many people are going to be up there with me, so that's where I got confident at. Once I gathered that nobody bumped me, it was up, man. That was it.

Q. A lot of people nationally over the years since you've been in the NBA have compared your career to Trae and Luka and in some ways you might have been a little bit of a disappointment, but I haven't heard that much lately. What's this stretch meant to you? Have you ever worried about that or are you just proud of coming into your own and being what you can be?

DEANDRE AYTON: At the end of the day we're all different players. I'm a seven-footer, a big man and two point guards. I don't know what you can compare it to. Me, I play as hard as I can. This is my team. I dominate the best way I can for this team and I try to take this team as far as I can. Other than that, I trust my work, I trust my work ethic, I trust my craft, and I work very hard at it, and I'll continue to do that. That's about it.

Q. You talk about the focus it takes on this stage on that last play. I'm assuming you had clarity on the fact that some of you just learned tonight about the rule no goaltending on an inbounds pass. Did you know that rule?

DEANDRE AYTON: No, that's why I didn't want to react. So man, it's so hard so explain, but just know it just felt like my hand hit the rim with the ball -- it was just confusion. I've never been in this position before. I just knew put the ball in the hoop right now. If you didn't know that -- I worried but I did what Coach told me to do. So I'm like, is it on me? Coach looked at me and said ‘Yo, that's the rule.’ It's above the cylinder, you can finish that play. I wasn't too sure if he was right because the other coaches are pulling him aside going, ‘Yo, we've got a couple more seconds left,’ and I'm like I'm just waiting for the officials to really confirm what this play was. Once I heard the crowd reaction, let's play ball.

Q. When Book set that pick, he's the No. 1 option as a scorer, the superstar --

DEANDRE AYTON: Exactly, sacrifice. Big sacrifice. That's what this team is about is big sacrifice. We don't know who's going to drop 30, we don't know who's going to hit the game winner. That's how this team is. We play for each other, and the key thing we do is togetherness. We try not to break that. We get in the huddle, we get on each other and we say what we have to say, and we get back out there and play for each other. That's about it.

Q. I'm glad that the screen came up. I want to ask about how strong is Zubac because I'm thinking about Devin getting in there to set that pick. How strong is that guy that you're going against?

DEANDRE AYTON: Man, Zubac is pretty strong. Like all -- Steven Adams, every center, he is a pretty strong dude and big dude, as well. That's why I give so much props to Book to really set a good screen on a guy like himself, a paint protector and just really find a good angle and then to free me up. All my respect goes out to Book and Jae for that play, as well.

Q. When will you tell your son about this play?

DEANDRE AYTON: I've got the jersey. I've got the jersey from it, so I can remember it, to give him that. I think that was the first thing I said, I'm going to give the jersey to him. Maybe somebody might say, all right, I'm giving that to him, but that one meant something to me. Stuff like that, just keeping little things close --

Q. Will you put it in his crib?

DEANDRE AYTON: Yeah, wait for him to mess with it a little bit.

Q. You are two wins away from the NBA Finals. How do you handle that situation, and what is your mindset going to LA for Game 3 and Game 4?

DEANDRE AYTON: It's going to get hard. Those dudes are going to come out even stronger, more physicality and they're going to attack us. We've just got to be prepared for anything here. One thing we just have to do is play our basketball. Once we do that, we'll be fine, play our pace, and the main thing is our defense. Once we stay focused on the defensive end, we'll work on the offensive end. The offense will come.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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