The Suns put a savage beating on the Lakers Tuesday night, 115-85, in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series. Devin Booker was great; Camerons Johnson and Payne chipped in; Chris Paul put up one of the few truly excellent nine-point, six-assist games you will see in the modern era. It was all about Phoenix’s defense, which clamped down on the Lakers, sans Anthony Davis, and chased LeBron James all the way into the locker room with more than five minutes left in the game. The Suns now lead the series 3-2; with Davis’s participation up in the air and a banged-up LeBron looking wobbly and slow, the Lakers are in the deepest of shit.
It’s weird seeing LeBron on the brink of elimination in an early series against, of all teams, the Phoenix Suns. I understand that this may cause some surprise and confusion, but please do not let it ruin your brain. Under no circumstances should you search for obscure long-shot explanations for why the team that won 70 percent of its games this regular season is able to score points against the team that needed an all-timer of a clutch shot to advance out of the dipshit play-in tournament. If you find yourself mentally referencing old pixelated workout videos from two years ago in order to understand how a guy who once scored 70 points in an NBA game can handle the occasional double-team, please set down your microphone immediately, Chris Haynes.
“A couple years back you made national basketball news when you talked about, should players get doubled in pickup games in the summer. Did those pickup games prepare you for these type of situations and atmospheres that you face?”
Haynes thought it was worth asking aloud whether Booker’s game was honed and sharpened for competing in a literal playoff series against the defending champions by that time two years ago when he was double-teamed for less than three seconds in a summer pickup game, and was annoyed by it. This video still has the juice, especially when Booker is reminded that double-teams are “part of the game” by old man Joakim Noah:
Booker’s answer—”No, that’s a totally different situation”—is both satisfyingly direct and admirably restrained. Haynes’s question is the sort of thing that will instantly turn anyone into the “What?” person in the relationship. A perfectly reasonable response to someone asking you if arguing with Joakim Noah prepared you for being hounded by multiple defenders in a playoff game would be to calmly remove your headset, hand it to a nearby production person, and simply walk away.
While I appreciate the opportunity to watch this old video another dozen times, I must stress that now is not the time for this! Naomi Osaka, one of the transcendent individual performers in all of sports, just dropped out of the French Open rather than deal with podium appearances, framing press engagements as a labor issue and kicking off a conversation about the achingly low ratio of valuable insights to humiliating boilerplate crap produced by the average post-competition media session. It gets harder to make the case that reporters should have access to professional athletes when you use one of your three precious post-game questions to ask a victorious player whether he was primed for facing LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers by a two-year-old open-court brush with Tony Snell!