Lost in the game between the Phoenix Suns and the Toronto Raptors last night — the Suns won, 99-95 — was a heated reaction by Devin Booker to the Raptors mascot’s attempt to distract him during free throws in clutch time.
The Suns were up just one point, 93-92, with 6.5 seconds left. Booker was at the line for free throws to put the Suns up by two or three points. Yet if he missed both, the Raptors would be able to score any basket to win.
Enter the Raptors mascot, who was the only fan in the building. Toronto has strict COVID-precaution policies, which include no large gatherings like back in early 2020. The mascot positioned himself behind the basket and jumped around to distract the Suns guard.
Book took it was disrespect, I guess. He made the free throw but then proceeded to complain to the officials about mascot’s antics (does a mascot do anything else but antic?).
Devin Booker upset that the Raptors mascot, the only fan in the building, is behind the hoop distracting him with the game on the line. Refs send him to timeout in the corner. pic.twitter.com/F9zLGPPD5D— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) January 12, 2022
Of course, the over-the-top reaction by Book was noticed by the internets, and detective work ensued.
been a long time since ive laughed this hard. *this* is what Booker was mad at. look at that verticality!!! pic.twitter.com/IodruVIsbZ— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) January 12, 2022
On the far right of the frame, you can see what angered Book. The mascot was clearly performing unsportsmanlike anti— just kidding. It was just doing what thousands of other fans would have been doing during that moment.
Folks had fun on the internets.
"No mascots, let's work on our games, bro" https://t.co/Gx4rZZQJLQ— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) January 12, 2022
Booker made both free throws, and the Suns went on to win 99-95 for their 14th clutch win of the season. The have the best clutch winning percentage (14-3, 82.4%) in the league, and the Suns are +30 with Booker on the floor in the clutch this season.
Will this become another ‘doubling in open gym’ thing where people bring it up years later?
Magic had Bird.— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) January 12, 2022
MJ had Bulls ownership.
Devin Booker has the Raptors mascot.
The NBA: Where rivalries happen.
The ‘doubling in open gym’ thing died out quickly when people started seeing Book beating doubles all the time the next season, leading to his first All-Star berth.
But what can Book do to quell the mascot doubters? Will teams around the league now try to clear out fans from behind the basket so their mascot can jump around to distract Book in clutch moments (Book made the FT anyway, by the way)?
Regardless, Booker explained himself after the game.
"I was just trying to get him out the way. It worked. I'd rather be shooting them w/o him down there. We play shooting games all the time everyday. These two do the same thing and I complain then. That's just me." Devin Booker on issue with Raptor waving behind basket on FT #Suns pic.twitter.com/WJ7ZfnZj83— Duane Rankin (@DuaneRankin) January 12, 2022
Have no fear that Book and the mascot have bad blood now. “We hashed it out,” Booker said later. “We’re homies now.”
Suns (league-best 31-9) don’t play again until Friday, at the Indiana Pacers (15-24).
Their originally-scheduled game vs. the Detroit Pistons today was moved to Sunday at 11:00am to assist the league’s rescheduling of some postponed COVID games.