It was supposed to be over for the Phoenix Suns. After a hard-fought Game 1 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, they were up against an even tougher opponent in Game 2 — Chris Paul’s nemesis Scott Foster.
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Before Tuesday night, in playoff games with Scott Foster as an official, Paul’s teams hadn’t won since 2013. His overall playoff record with Foster as an official was 2-15, with 13 consecutive losses.
That record is now 3-15. In a must-win game at home, the Suns went on a run in the third quarter and never looked back. They tied the series with a 123-109 victory against the Clippers. The Suns shot markedly better in Game 2 both from midrange and the 3-point line. Devin Booker scored 38 points, 18 of which came during the Suns’ blistering third quarter.
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Paul also put his imprint on the game scoring eight of his 16 points in the fourth quarter. He didn’t attempt a single three, and 2-pointed the Clippers right out of the building. Paul finally beat Jack Harlowe’s biggest fan.
Was Paul happy after the game? He was most certainly pleased that the Suns didn’t drop the first two games of the series at home. As far as the relationship between Paul and Foster thawing, he was not ready to go that far.
“I’m sure it’s still gonna be a thing,” Paul said to the media after the game. “The league know what it is so… can’t control it. They ain’t been able to control all the other ones so it ain’t gonna change now.”
One might think Paul would be a bit more cheery after taking down his arch-rival. However, the former NBPA president has addressed his concerns about Foster’s officiating in the past. On Tuesday night, the Clippers attempted 31 free throws to the Suns’ 14. With just over three minutes remaining in the game, Foster charged Booker with a questionable personal foul. Less than a minute later, there was contact made on a Deandre Ayton layup and no foul was called.
In the NBA offices, Foster is their top man. He routinely grades out the highest even though NBA Twitter collectively groans when it is revealed that he is officiating a game. He blows that whistle as often as Michael Jordan shot the ball for the 1986-87 Chicago Bulls. Foster is like the kid in the church choir that oversings in the back row. He refuses to acknowledge there is a reason that certain people always sing the solos.
Until next time
The chances of Paul and Foster meeting again in these playoffs depend on how long the Suns stay in it. If this depth-deprived team gets tired quickly Foster probably won’t get the chance to see Paul again this season. If Booker and Kevin Durant can combine for 65-75 points on a couple of nights then maybe the two longtime foes will meet again for a Game 7.
The series started rough for Paul and he still has some hard feelings towards Foster, but for one night he was able to get the best of him. That may not be worthy of popping bottles, but I hope Paul at least gave Foster a wry grin before departing from the floor.
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