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Deandre Ayton says NBA Finals run is ‘just the beginning’ for Suns

NBA: Finals-Phoenix Suns at Milwaukee Bucks Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Phoenix Suns lost to the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Finals in six games but Deandre Ayton found a silver lining in the defeat.

“Everybody’s down, but individually this is just the beginning,” he said. “As a young player like me and some of the guys on my team, we know what it takes now and that’s all I’m going off of, to be honest.”

The Suns snapped a 10-year playoff drought this season and mostly cruised through the Western Conference on their way to their first NBA Finals since 1993. Phoenix looked destined to take the title after winning the first two games of the series but the Bucks rallied for four straight wins.

“I mean, nobody really expected us to even, you know, be here,” Ayton said. “I know people talk about injuries of other teams and stuff like that, but at the end of the day we playing ball and I’m just really happy how the guys had a wonderful season playing together to get us where we are today. But at the same time we feel it, it leaves a little bad taste in your mouth, but at the end of the day this is just the beginning, man. This is my third year and I’m already feeling it, you know?”

Ayton’s production fizzled in the final games of the NBA Finals but it shouldn’t overshadow what otherwise was an impressive postseason for the former Wildcat. The 22-year-old averaged 16.0 points and 12.1 rebounds while shooting 68 percent from the field.

That included 14 double-doubles, including a 20-point, 19-rebound outing in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. That made Ayton the first player to record at least 15 points and 15 rebounds in his NBA Finals debut since Tim Duncan on June 16, 1999.

Ayton said his first postseason taught him that everyone has to lay it on the line every game.

“I tip my hat off to Milwaukee because everybody that checked in, even if they didn’t check in, they wanted to die on that court,” he said. “And that’s what I felt. That’s what it takes. Everybody got to give it their all when it comes to this, especially when it’s the last game.”

Ayton wants to be more consistent on defense moving forward.

“I think this series I got caught up in some foul trouble, but throughout the whole playoffs and Finals I think I stepped up on my defense where whatever the teams throwing at us with their offense I can adjust,” he said. “Whether it’s smalls or bigs or bigs that can pop or put it on the ground as well, just making sure I’m on the floor long periods of time, especially when teams go small.”

Ayton was unable to slow down Giannis Antetokounmpo, who dropped 50 points in Milwaukee’s 105-98 Game 6 win.

“This is the most time I’ve ever seen Giannis, but, yeah, man, it was fun,” Ayton said. “I love competing, I love the challenges, man, but I just wish I could win. But at the same time it was fun, I learned a lot. Just with consistency when it comes to this thing called competing, you can’t really have any mishaps at this high level.”