Deandre Ayton rusty but effective in return to Suns lineup

Deandre Ayton made a surprise return to the Suns lineup on Monday. (Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Deandre Ayton is back.

Again.

After serving a 25-game banned-substance suspension following opening night, the Phoenix Suns center returned on Dec. 17 to play three quarters against the Los Angeles Clippers.

He sprained an ankle that night and promptly missed five more games.

Unexpected news

He was initially listed as out for Monday’s matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers before the Suns upgraded his status to questionable prior to shootaround.

Shortly before tipoff, head coach Monty Williams delivered the news that Ayton would play in the matchup of teams battling at the bottom of the Western Conference playoff race.

Ayton performed well in his first game back against the Clippers, tallying 18 points and 12 rebounds in 24 minutes, but showed signs of rust from his injury layoff in Monday’s 122-116 win over the Trail Blazers.

He struggled from the floor against Hassan Whiteside but had no trouble using his length on the boards, tallying six points and 12 rebounds while shooting 3-of-9 from the floor in 20 minutes.

Meanwhile Damian Lillard and Devin Booker put on a show in opposing backcourts, with each tallying 33 points and seven assists in the Phoenix win.

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