Suns' Deandre Ayton: Losing 2021 NBA Finals 'Like a Knife Stabbed Us in the Chest'

Doric SamApril 20, 2022

PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 17: Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns warms up before Round 1 Game 1 of the 2022 NBA Playoffs against New Orleans Pelicans on April 17, 2022 at Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Kate Frese/NBAE via Getty Images)
Kate Frese/NBAE via Getty Images

The Phoenix Suns finished with the best record in the NBA this season, and they are on a mission to top it off with a championship.

Center Deandre Ayton recently told Rohan Nadkarni of Sports Illustrated that the Suns are extra motivated to make sure they avoid coming up short like they did last year in the NBA Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks.

"I’m going to tell you the truth right now, that was the worst taste in our mouths," Ayton said. "It’s like a knife stabbed us in the chest. I think about it every day. And there’s a certain vengeance I’ve been putting into my game. So lord knows we’re coming into this postseason ready."

Phoenix (64-18) had eight more wins than the Memphis Grizzlies, who finished with the second-best record in the league. The Suns took care of business in Sunday's Game 1 against the New Orleans Pelicans with a 110-99 win in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

Ayton had 21 points, nine rebounds and four blocks in Sunday's victory. Phoenix will need him to continue to perform at a high level if it hopes to make it back to the Finals, as he was a key part of last year's run.

The 23-year-old averaged 15.8 points and 11.8 rebounds while shooting 65.8 percent from the field in the 2021 postseason. Ayton said he plans to be even more of an offensive weapon this time around.

"Last year, I didn’t feel like I was a threat," Ayton said. "Teams weren’t really worried about me unless I was rolling. This year I really wanted to work on my short rolls and beating switches. The game is more open to me, and I get to where I want to get."

Ayton and the Suns will return to action for Game 2 against the Pelicans on Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET.