The Phoenix Suns are now officially in jeopardy in their first-round series against the Los Angeles Lakers after losing 109-95 in Game 3 in L.A. to fall down 2-1 in the series. Phoenix had a difficult offensive night, shooting 42.7 percent from the floor and committing 17 turnovers against the tenacious Lakers defense.
On the other hand, after a poor start in the first half for the Lakers, the floodgates opened in the third quarter, when LeBron James and Anthony Davis combined for 28 points to help the Lakers win 33-23 and pull away from the Suns. Seven of the 33 points were scored at the free-throw line on nine attempts, with Davis making the majority of them. The Lakers had 30 free throw attempts to the Suns’ 18, but in a game that had a 21-point lead at one point and ended with a 14-point margin, the refereeing was not high on the list of concerns.
However, Chris Paul couldn’t help but notice the latest in a long line of bad luck for his teams, as it was the 11th consecutive loss in the playoffs for a Chris Paul-led club when Scott Foster was on the call.
It’s a debatable distinction, and it’s come up in far tighter games in the past, but with a loss like this, it’ll be difficult to convince too many people that the officials played a large influence. The gap is noticeable, but so is the difference in shot selection between the two sides. Throughout the game, the Suns had 13 shots in the restricted area, while the Lakers had 25. That’s a big gap, and it accounts for a lot of the free-throw disparity, as does Dennis Schröder getting three free throws late after Devin Booker’s Flagrant 2 and Jared Crowder’s technical expulsion.
Most teams will be frustrated with referees after a loss, but the Suns have greater problems to solve in this series. Deandre Ayton is a monster inside, but the Suns’ offensive efficiency and ability to get to the free-throw line have suffered as a result of their inability to consistently get to the rim. Part of that is due to Chris Paul’s ongoing shoulder ailment, which is clearly hurting his scoring ability, as he only took eight shots in 27 minutes as Phoenix opted for Cam Payne late in the game since he could at least make three-point shots (and hit a few).
Chris Paul’s beef with Scott Foster has been well-publicized, and there is some strong evidence from previous games to back up his accusations, but this game doesn’t really come into that category because Phoenix was just outplayed in the second half.