The Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers were playing a highly competitive basketball game on Tuesday evening. It was fun to watch and featured some high-level play through one half.
Unfortunately, the game hit a certain point in the second half where the officials had decided they’d had enough.
Shortly after both the Lakers’ LeBron James and Frank Vogel were given technicals in the third quarter, Suns All-Star guard Devin Booker was ejected after being given two of his own.
Despite Booker’s ejection being an obvious point where the momentum of the game could shift, the Suns kept trudging and wound up beating the Lakers 114-104.
Booker was the best player on the floor in purple before he got thrown out. He finished the night with 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting, three rebounds, six assists and three steals in 24 minutes.
Even with that in mind, Suns head coach Monty Williams couldn’t spend any time dwelling on it.
“I didn’t need one,” he said when asked if he got an explanation. “I didn’t get one because we had to move on. That’s what we have to do in those moments. I saw talking, I saw back and forth and to be honest, I didn’t need an explanation. For us to be the team that we can be, we gotta be able to handle those moments even when they don’t go our way.
“And that’s what I had to do. I had to move on and get Cam Johnson into the game and go to the next play.”
In the moment, it was unclear exactly what happened.
TNT’s broadcast showed Booker receiving a technical foul and then leaving the floor. The word soon followed that Booker had been ejected, to the befuddlement of the commentary team covering the game off-location and everyone watching.
After a commercial break, TNT found the video that showed Booker receiving two back-to-back technicals. The first seemed ordinary enough, with Booker voicing his frustration at the job done by the officials. Booker then threw a bounce pass to one referee and was quickly given his second technical after that.
“I saw him get the first tech, he’s going back and forth with the ref and then I don’t know what happened after that,” Suns forward Mikal Bridges said after the game. “I just looked back and saw him walking out and saying he’s out. It’s tough.”
The game’s crew chief Marc Davis, who called neither technical foul, was interviewed by the game’s pool reporter afterward, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.
Davis said Booker’s first technical was for “continuous complaining” while the second was for “profane language at a game official.”
Booker appeared to be directing the criticism at official Tyler Ford, the ref that gave him the first technical. It was referee Justin Van Duyne who you can see in the video above walk in front of Booker that wound up calling the second tech.
Suns forward Jae Crowder saw how quickly the situation was developing and tried his best to either separate his star guard from the refs or step in for him.
“I tried to do both! Too late! It was too late,” he said. “I tried to just be a good teammate. I knew he was frustrated, he was a little angry about it and I tried to deescalate the situation as soon as possible but it was too late. I tried to be there for him.”
McMenamin naturally followed up with why it was Van Duyne and not Ford that wound up giving Booker the second technical. Davis repeated himself in saying Booker was tossed for “profane language at a game official.”
It’s obviously quite a ridiculous explanation, with the reasoning for both technicals being a common occurrence during every NBA game.
It was not just Suns fans that were furious with the decision impacting a great game.
The Suns were fortunate it didn’t wind up swinging the game.