PHOENIX — The Denver Nuggets earned a hook from Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams with five minutes left in a close Game 3 with the Denver Nuggets up 2-0 in their second-round series on Friday.
The Suns held on to win 121–114, taking a 2–1 series lead over the Nuggets.
Williams turned to backup center Jock Landel after Ayton missed a layup on a relatively clear path to the basket that put Phoenix up 103-94 with about six minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Ayton grabbed a missed rebound, but Denver's Bruce Brown backhanded the ball out of his hands and hit a Nikola Jokic 5-footer to make it 103-96.
Williams called Landel to the scorer's table after that sequence. A few possessions later, the Suns called timeout and Ayton was pulled after the reset.
Guards Damion Lee and Cam Payne appeared to talk to Ayton to get his head right, and when the center showed frustration about being benched, he was rejoined for Phoenix's next break.
Ayton played 26 minutes and scored four points with nine rebounds.
Landel finished with six points and nine rebounds in 22 minutes, showing significantly more success running against Nuggets star Nikola Jokic in the eye test.
Jokic had 28 points, 17 rebounds and 17 assists - the first player in NBA history to go 25-15-15 in a playoff game.