The Phoenix Suns are one game away from elimination in Kevin Durant’s first season in the Valley of the Sun, and they’ll reportedly be without their big man Thursday.
Deandre Ayton, the first overall selection of the 2018 NBA Draft, has been ruled out for Thursday’s game against the Denver Nuggets due to a rib contusion, according to The Athletic.
He injured his rib during the first quarter of Game 5 in a collision with Bruce Brown.
“I feel good. Everyone thought it knocked the wind out of me,” Ayton said of the injury after Game 5. “It was just like a bone-on-bone type of thing where it hurt. I had my breath. It just hurt a little bit.”
The Nuggets lead the series 3-2.
The loss of Ayton is the latest blow to Phoenix, and Chris Paul will miss his fourth straight game with left groin tightness.
Ayton has averaged 10.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game in the series.
Phoenix will again be forced to lean heavily on Durant and guard Devin Booker as they try to force a Game 7.
In the Suns’ two wins, Durant and Booker carried the load, combining for 73 points in Game 3 and 72 points in Game 4.
“It’s all about helping out and playing and taking it one possession at a time,” Durant said of the mentality for Game 6. “It’s just about going out there and playing every possession like it’s your last.”
The Nuggets won Game 5 behind a triple-double by Nikola Jokic, and the series heads back to Phoenix for Game 6.
“Yeah. I’ve been in here a couple of times now,” Booker said after Game 5. “I love it. Every game has its own character. Every game is its own movie, its own different preparation and everything to go with it. We’re going to watch over film, see how we can be better for Game 6.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report