Devin Booker had a frustrating night as his Phoenix Suns fell behind the Los Angeles Lakers two games to one in their first-round series. The Phoenix star scored only 19 points on 6-of-19 shooting as his team dropped its second consecutive game, but as the final seconds ticked off of the clock, Booker managed to make things far worse.
With just under 40 seconds remaining, Lakers guard Dennis Schroder went up for a layup. While he was in the air, Booker pushed him with both hands into Jae Crowder. Schroder fell to the floor hard, and while he was fortunately able to get back up, the officials reviewed the play and ejected Booker with a flagrant-2 foul call.
Booker already had five fouls at that point, so he would have been ejected regardless, but the officials still kicked him out of the game for that play alone because of the unnecessary force Booker exerted on a vulnerable player. The Lakers were furious after the game, and Anthony Davis made that clear as soon as he was asked.
“Can’t happen,” Davis said of the foul during his post-game interview with TNT. “Can’t do that, I mean it’s playoff basketball, but you don’t push a guy out of the air like that with two hands. It’s a dirty play. Dennis could’ve really gotten hurt right there. We keep it in between the lines, we never want to. I know Monty, he’s not that type of coach, he’s probably going to say something to him, he was my coach for three years, but that just can’t happen. Hard fouls, things like that, playoff basketball, we accept those, but to blatantly push a guy with two hands out of the air, it’s a scary play. Good thing he’s OK, but plays like that are unacceptable.”
Virtually every other Laker agreed. “I thought the play wasn’t a basketball play,” LeBron James said. Schroder himself concurred and added that in the regular season, “it’s probably a suspension as well.” The NBA is unlikely to suspend Booker for such a play in the middle of the playoffs, but a fine appears possible given the dangers of such a foul.
This is Booker’s first postseason appearance. The playoffs are notoriously physical compared to the regular season, and this game encapsulated that. But that is no excuse to push someone so hard while they are in the air. The Lakers are lucky Schroder escaped without an injury, and the Suns are lucky that a meaningless ejection will likely be the only on-court impact of Booker’s poor decision.