Deandre Ayton benched: Suns center ignores Chris Paul, spurns media after Game 3 win over Nuggets
Deandre Ayton benched: Suns center ignores Chris Paul, spurns media after Game 3 win over Nuggets
Deandre Ayton takes issue with late benching in win over Nuggets

After entering the night facing a 2-0 series deficit, the Suns delivered in a must-win situation by taking Game 3 from the Nuggets, but it wasn't without internal friction.

With under five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of Phoenix's win, former No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton was benched in favor of undrafted two-year veteran Jock Landale, who finished with six points and nine rebounds in the win. Ayton, who finished with four points and nine rebounds in 26 minutes, did not seem to take the benching in stride.

In a moment captured by Eliav Gabay of Sports 360 Arizona, Ayton appeared to be very upset during the timeout in which he was subbed out. As Ayton walks away, Chris Paul, who was sidelined for Game 3 with a groin injury, reaches out to dap Ayton, but Ayton looks past his teammate and does not acknowledge the attempt.

#Suns Deandre Ayton was visibly upset with being pulled down the stretch of Game 3.

Chris Paul tried to dap him up but Ayton ignored him.@Sports360AZ #NBATwitter #SunsTwitter

— Eliav Gabay (@eliavgabay) May 6, 2023

MORE: How long is Chris Paul out with groin injury?

According to ESPN's Tim MacMahon, Ayton exited the Footprint Center before media was allowed into Phoenix's locker room, meaning the 24-year-old would not be available to comment on the situation.

MacMahon added that Suns head coach Monty Williams was extremely complimentary of Landale's effort in Game 3, saying "Jock was giving us great energy."

Williams added that "guys have tough games, and (Ayton) didn't have his best tonight, but it's great to be able to have your brother pick it up for you."

The events in Game 3 are the continuation of a seemingly rocky situation for Ayton in Phoenix. Last playoffs, Ayton and Williams were seen having a disagreement during the Suns' embarrassing Game 7 loss to the Mavericks in the Western Conference Semifinals.

During the 2022 offseason, Ayton was a restricted free agent and elected to sign an offer sheet with the Pacers. The Suns matched the deal, but Ayton didn't seem too happy about it during media day ahead of the 2022-23 season.

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Now, trouble seems to again loom as Phoenix looks to overcome a 2-0 series deficit in a seven-game series for the first time in franchise history.

Devin Booker and Kevin Durant, who combined for 86 points in Game 3, continue to do their part, but given Paul's injury, the Suns will need Ayton in order to complete the comeback and make good on their high expectations.

All eyes will be on how Ayton bounces back with a quick turnaround following a frustrating night.

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