JaVale McGee on Jaxson Hayes flagrant: ‘I wouldn’t recommend that’

Apr 23, 2022, 9:02 AM | Updated: 10:19 am

The Phoenix Suns have a recent history of responding to skirmishes, kerfuffles and squabbles with opponents.

That history says Phoenix takes bad energy between themselves and opponents, and converts it into better basketball.

The latest example: On Friday, in Game 3 of their first-round series, New Orleans Pelicans forward Jaxson Hayes shoved Suns forward Jae Crowder with the game tied at 43 points apiece. It earned him an ejection, and the Suns answered by going on a 16-5 run in the final 5:13 of the first half.

The Pelicans made up an 11-point halftime deficit but eventually fell to 2-1 in the first-round playoff series with a 114-111 loss.

“It seems like when teams try to do that to us, it turns us up, if anything,” Suns forward JaVale McGee told reporters after the game. “That actually makes us go harder. I wouldn’t recommend that for teams.”

Hayes’ bowling-over of Crowder, who was boxing him out, was a huge hit to a New Orleans team that in a Game 2 defeat of the No. 1 seeded team had just activated Hayes in a positive way, using cross-matches and his athleticism to scare the Suns in transition.

It went similarly to a few other combustible moments from Phoenix opponents this year.

On March 4, New York Knicks forward Julius Randle laid a shoulder into mild-mannered Suns reserve Cam Johnson, who took offense and commenced piling up a career-high 38 points, including a game-winning three.

On March 23, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns gave Crowder the “too-small” gesture and proceeds to score three second-half points after Phoenix responds and pulls away.

“Hits like that get us going. I think we needed a hit like that,” Deandre Ayton said of the Hayes-Crowder incident. “Whether it’s incidental or not … that made us play harder.”

Added head coach Monty Williams: “It’s, obviously, you just want to protect your guy. I didn’t even see the play. The coaches told me it was one of those hits you just don’t want to see in basketball. As a man, you want to respond. We always say we want to win the game and not the fight. I thought (Crowder) did a good job controlling himself in the moment.”

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