On a night where almost every player for the Atlanta Hawks struggled to get anything going against the Toronto Raptors, Gustavo Ayon shined through. The Hawks might have lost the game by a final score of 104-83, but the play of Ayon for Atlanta is a promising sign for a depleted team going forward. With so many crucial players out with injuries such as Al Horford, Pero Antic and now DeMarre Carroll, the Hawks will need players such as Ayon to fill the void.
Especially with the two big men unavailable to play in Horford and Antic, the play of the Mexican center becomes even more important when the second half of the season gets underway. Atlanta will need an interior presence down low in order to help defend the paint while two big men sit out, because without one winning in the NBA becomes a lot harder. This means someone like Ayon must be able to not only challenge shots at the rim and rebound, but he also must pose the threat to score in order to establish his presence.
If last night is any indication of the type of performances he can turn in when his team needs him the most, then Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer has to be happy. Coach Bud’s team might not have won the game, but the effort of Ayon is something to rave about following the loss.
Ayon scored a career-high 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the starting center role. Hawks fans are accustomed to his rebounding as he’s averaged around 6.2 rebounds in his last ten games with increased minutes while players sit out with injuries, but his scoring came out of nowhere.
His highest point total on the season up until this point was only 10 points and that occurred in the middle of December. The way he got to 18 points was impressive as well. He went an outstanding 9-for-11 from the field against the Raptors’ stingy defense last night.
Hopefully going forward this is a positive sign for the Hawks, because if Ayon can step up to provide consistent production on offense, then they can still compete for a higher seed in the Eastern Conference playoff picture despite the injuries.