The Suns have ruled out center Deandre Ayton for Thursday’s pivotal Game 6 against Denver due to the rib contusion he sustained in Game 5, league sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).
On Wednesday, Phoenix ruled out point guard Chris Paul, who is battling a left groin strain, while Ayton was listed as questionable. Something troublesome must have been discovered during his medical evaluation, as the big man has been downgraded to out.
The team will now be playing without two starters in an elimination game, as the Suns trail the Nuggets 3-2 in their second-round series.
John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 FM (Twitter link) hears that guard Landry Shamet will enter the starting lineup tonight — I’m assuming that will be in place of Cameron Payne, who has been filling in for Paul, and not for Ayton. Backup centers Jock Landale and Bismack Biyombo figure to see extended playing time in the middle with Ayton out.
Andy Bailey of Bleacher Report argued before the news broke that the Suns would be better off giving the majority of Ayton’s minutes to Landale. Phoenix is minus-59 in Ayton’s 149 minutes in the series, but plus-27 in Landale’s 74 minutes.
The Nuggets might be shorthanded as well. Guard Jamal Murray is questionable with a non-COVID illness that has been traveling through the team, according to Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports (Twitter links).
Murray was unable to participate in Thursday’s shootaround, which was cut short due to the illness that’s going around, but Denver is hopeful he’ll be able to suit up, tweets Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Head coach Michael Malone and a “handful of players” are among those who have been affected, Youngmisuk adds.