PHOENIX — With the Phoenix Suns’ lead already ballooning to begin the second half, Los Angeles Lakers guard Patrick Beverley scored a layup while being fouled by Chris Paul early in the third quarter on Monday. After the whistle, Beverley placed his right hand a few inches from the floor, suggesting Paul was too small to guard him.
The celebration might have been misplaced. The and-1 opportunity for Beverley cut the Suns’ lead from 26 to 23 with his ensuing free throw. Phoenix went on to win 130-104.
« You can’t pay attention to that stuff, » Paul said after the game when asked about Beverley trying to show him up. « That ain’t new. He ain’t come up with it. But just play basketball, man. »
The reaction by Beverley has become a popular celebratory gesture used around the league when a player scores in the post against a smaller defender.
Only there wasn’t much size difference with that particular matchup. Beverley is listed at 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds. Paul is listed at 6 feet, 175 pounds.
The far starker contrast was between the two guards’ production. Paul finished with 28 points, eight assists, two steals and zero turnovers, and the Suns outscored the Lakers by 18 in the 32 minutes he played. Beverley had nine points, three assists and three turnovers, and LA was outscored by 17 in the 23 minutes he was in the game.
While the Lakers were losing handily at the time of Beverley’s boast — and not to mention sit 5½ games behind Phoenix in the Western Conference standings — their coach, Darvin Ham, had no problem with his point guard’s tactic.
« Pat is Pat. He wears his feelings on his sleeve, » Ham said. « I think everybody is getting a little too uptight with guys celebrating. … Obviously, there’s sportsmanship issues, and you have to be respectful of your opponent. I get that. And I think for the most part, we are. But I don’t want to see the league get to a place where players can’t have natural enthusiasm.
« The passion and emotion that’s involved with this game, and the trash talking, as long as no one is disrespecting another person’s family or spouse or kids or anything like that, I think it’s fodder. It’s fun fodder, man. »
« You can’t pay attention to that stuff. That ain’t new. He ain’t come up with it. »
Ham, who said he was looking for a team effort against Phoenix with Anthony Davis, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Austin Reaves all sidelined because of injury, accepted Beverley’s energy, so long as it didn’t cross a line.
« Pat is a seasoned vet, and he wants to have fun within the game, » Ham continued. « So, I’ll be damned if I’ll be the one to say these guys can’t have fun or they can’t do this or they can’t do that. I know time and score matters; you never want to embarrass yourself. But if guys want to enjoy the game, why not? »
It’s the second time in two trips to Phoenix this season that Beverley’s extracurricular activities became a postgame talking point. Last month, Beverly Suns shoved center Deandre Ayton to the floor after Ayton stood over Reaves following a foul by Phoenix’s Devin Booker. Beverley was later suspended three games for the push.