Update: Less than 48 hours after these comments, the NBA announced that Suns head coach Monty Williams had been fined $20,000 for public criticism of officiating.
The following was released by the NBA. pic.twitter.com/tHhrlJEdHt— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) March 24, 2023
Original story follows.
For the first time in almost two years, the Lakers finally beat the Suns in a basketball game. It was a span of 11 games that included the postseason, regular season and even the preseason. No matter the stakes, Phoenix bested the purple and gold at every turn until Wednesday’s effort.
The win was possible because for a handful of reasons from balanced scoring to a strong second half from Anthony Davis. Nothing was more impactful in that than the Lakers’ free throw shooting, particularly in their volume.
The team shot a season-high 46 free throws with over a quarter of those coming from Austin Reaves. The 13 free throws shot by Reaves were the most in the game and tied for the second-most this season individually.
Phoenix, meanwhile, shot 20 free throws on the night. That figure is actually more than their season average of 17, the third-fewest in the league. The Lakers’ mark is, obviously, also more than their season average, but they lead the league at 26.6 attempts per contest.
Despite those last two stats, the Suns were just absolutely flabbergasted at the free throw discrepancy, starting at the top with head coach Monty Williams.
Monty Williams was extremely frustrated with the free throw disparity. He answered one question and then walked off. pic.twitter.com/pkmrJfbar1— Melissa Rohlin (@melissarohlin) March 23, 2023
Perhaps the Suns should stop fouling, which they’ve done a lot this year as they have committed the fifth-most fouls in the league. Maybe they should have considered not fouling Austin Reaves on the night.
None of that seemed to cross the minds of Chris Paul and Devin Booker, though, who just could not figure out the answer to the riddle on the night.
Chris Paul on free-throw disparity: “We’re just trying to find a balance. We got to be better. I don’t think all of them are missed. But it’s a little weird.” pic.twitter.com/bn952cWrKN— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) March 23, 2023
Suns’ Devin Booker on if team’s fouling has more to do with officiating or things team needs to correct: “That’s what we’re trying to figure out.” pic.twitter.com/oF2tVSJeB8— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) March 23, 2023
Having fired off all the jokes now, it is important to note that Scott Foster was officiating. Of the many storied rivalries in the league, few are greater than Chris Paul vs. Scott Foster.
Foster’s absurdity is not limited to just the Suns, though he seems to take a special level of distaste for Paul’s teams. Spectrum SportsNet’s cameras picked up D’Angelo Russell giving a warning to the team during the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s game.
"Scott Foster reffing y'all... Scott Foster."— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) March 23, 2023
D'Angelo Russell during a Lakers timeout pic.twitter.com/QyXApAa7DY
Realistically, the Suns are a team who just fouls people a lot. They can complain about it all they want, but if you keep fouling people, they’ll keep shooting free throws, and you’ll keep losing the free throw battle. And it’s impressive to lose that battle when you have life-long grifters like Devin Booker and Chris Paul.
Perhaps they can watch film and learn a thing or two from Austin Reaves in this one.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.