Deandre Ayton was conspicuously absent throughout the Phoenix Suns' Game 7 123-90 loss to the Dallas Mavericks, playing only 17 minutes.
Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Patrick Beverley believes it should've been Chris Paul riding the pine instead.
"First off, I'm going to get a lot for this, but I don't really care. They benched the wrong person. Should've benched [Chris Paul]," Beverley said Monday on Get Up. "And I'm not saying bench him now. Once you see they started attacking Chris early and you know that might become a problem later on, you need to see how the team works without Chris in the game a little bit. I got benched. We won, though, so you don't even remember that. So as a coach, you have to understand, they're attacking my main guy, I can't get buckets from him, I have to make an adjustment, whatever that adjustment is. And that's no fault against Monty [Williams], he's a great coach, Coach of the Year. But [Ty Lue], if T-Lue's there, he's making that decision. It's a hard decision, but he's making it."
Paul finished with 10 points and four assists in the blowout loss. The 37-year-old did not record his first field goal until the third quarter, at which point the Mavericks already had the game well in hand.
Ayton's benching was seemingly a sore spot after the game, with Monty Williams tersely telling reporters "it's internal" when asked why the center spent most of the game on the bench. His 17 minutes played were 10 fewer than any other starter and his lowest of the season not related to an injury.
Ayton did not speak to reporters after the game, marking a bitter end to an otherwise stellar season as he approaches restricted free agency.
As for Paul, his complete implosion over the final five games of this series appears to be somewhat injury-related. Marc J. Spears of Andscape reported Paul is dealing with an undisclosed quad injury. The Suns did not list Paul on any injury report with the quad, and he averaged 32.4 minutes per game for the series, so it's unclear how much he was hampered..
That said, Paul was clearly a diminished player for some reason as the series progressed. The Mavericks regularly hunted him on defense and he became an uncharacteristic turnover machine, coughing the ball up an average of 3.1 times per game for the series.