Chris Paul had a number in mind Thursday night after the Suns lost in Game 3 to the Lakers: 11.
Was it because of his statistics? Paul had seven points, six assists and five rebounds in 27 minutes, so no. Was it the final score or the margin of victory? Los Angeles won 109-95, so no. Ah, that had to be about the Phoenix 3-point shot because the team went 11 of 29 from the depths, right? Still wrong.
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No, the 36-year-old landed on that magic number due to his connection – or rather, his ongoing feud – with referee Scott Foster. Paul repeatedly said “11 games in a row” at the end of his post-game press conference, a reference to the number of consecutive losses for Paul in playoff games refereed by Foster.
“We have to try to limit their free throw attempts. They’re shooting a lot of free throws the last game tonight,” said Paul. “I mean, if I was a punter, 11 straight, 11 straight. We’ll see what happens – 11 straight, 11 straight, it’s tough.”
Chris Paul redirected the end of his last three press conference questions tonight to the same stat: “11 games in a row.” Paul’s teams have lost 11 straight playoff games refereed by Scott Foster. pic.twitter.com/BvbZTGe3eX
– Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) May 28, 2021
As noted by Action Network, Paul lost those 11 consecutive playoff games refereed by Foster with four different teams: the Clippers (0-5), the Rockets (0-4), the Thunder (0-1) and the Suns (0-1). He has faced Foster on several occasions during his career, including in last year’s playoffs in the Florida “bubble” when Paul criticized Foster for what he believed to be an unnecessary delay in the appeal. Match.
“Scott Foster walked up to me and said, ‘Chris, you don’t have to do this. I had them sweep the floor,’” Paul said at the time. “OK, cool. So I started to tie my shoe, and he called the game delay anyway. It doesn’t make sense. I don’t know. It’s crazy. He just – we could have been. win the game, but this situation the league knows.
“They’re going to fine me. I said his name. We already know the story.”
I asked Chris Paul about refereeing – especially this match appeal deadline. He named Scott Foster because he knows he will be fined.
A passionate response that includes “this shit makes no sense … we could have won the game” pic.twitter.com/w2MpKr3Uyr
– Taylor Rooks (@TaylorRooks) September 3, 2020
Foster has earned his fair share of criticism for questionable calls in the past, but the Lakers’ advantage on the free throw line was largely due to their aggressiveness in attacking the paint, especially in the second half. They also topped the Suns 51-35 on aggregate and 15-8 on offensive glass. On top of that, Paul has not been able to perform up to his usual standards as he continues to face a nagging shoulder injury.
But when the anger and frustration run so deep, none of it matters. Paul only sees Foster and that fucking 11.