Ayton's foul trouble limits Suns in Game 3 loss vs Bucks

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MILWAUKEE (AP) — Deandre Ayton got off to a quick start Sunday night then couldn’t do anything but watch as the Phoenix Suns were unable to take a stranglehold on the NBA Finals.

The 6-foot-11 center’s inability to avoid foul trouble contributed to the Suns’ losing 120-100 in Game 3 of the series. Phoenix also missed Devin Booker's scoring as the Suns guard also struggled and finished with just 10 points.

Ayton’s absence, however, showed just how big his presence on the floor is for the Suns.

He scored 16 points in the first 14 1/2 minutes of Game 3 but picked up his fourth foul with 10:25 left in the third quarter and sat out the rest of the period. By the time he returned, the Bucks owned a 22-point lead en route to a 120-100 victory.

Phoenix still leads the finals, holding a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series with Game 4 Wednesday night in Milwaukee.

The Suns couldn't overcome the combination of foul trouble for Ayton, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft, and Booker shooting just 3 of 14 after scoring 27 in Game 1 and 31 in Game 2.

Ayton was dominant early and the Bucks had no answers for him. After scoring just 10 points in the Suns’ Game 2 victory Thursday, Phoenix was intent on making him a bigger factor Sunday.

He shot 6 of 7 in the first quarter. Ayton's 16 quick points helped the Suns grab a 36-30 lead early in the second period. But he scored just two more points the rest of the game, finishing with 18 points and nine rebounds in less than 25 minutes.

The Bucks pulled ahead for good by outscoring Phoenix 30-9 over the last nine minutes of the second quarter to grab a 60-45 halftime edge. And once Ayton picked up that fourth foul early in the third quarter, the Suns did some experimenting due to their lack of size.

The Suns already are playing without forward Dario Saric, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament in Game 1. Forward Torrey Craig played but didn't seem to be at full strength after injuring his right knee in Game 2.

After 7-foot Frank Kaminsky was ineffective, the Suns briefly turned to Abdel Nader, a 6-5 forward who played a total of one minute in the first two games of the finals. They had Jae Crowder playing center. in the quarter

It worked — but the success didn't last.

Phoenix sharpshooter Cam Johnson found his rhythm and the Suns made 12 of their first 14 shots in the third quarter to cut Milwaukee's lead to four. But once they cooled off, the Bucks pulled away.

Milwaukee had a 20-0 edge in second-chance points in the game and Milwaukee scored the final 16 points of the third quarter to grab a 98-76 lead.

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More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Steve Megargee, The Associated Press

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