PHOENIX -- In September 2020, while embedded in the Orlando bubble, Chris Paul was preparing to play a Game 7 for the Oklahoma City Thunder against the Houston Rockets when a nemesis came to speak to him.
Referee Scott Foster reminded Paul that 12 years earlier, during Paul's first playoffs, when he was with the New Orleans Hornets, Foster had officiated their Game 7 loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
Foster's context for making the comment is unknown. But Paul, in telling the story after the Thunder suffered a frustrating defeat, appeared to think Foster had played some sort of mind game.
Foster indeed seems to have gotten in Paul's head over the years, especially during the playoffs.
The key number now is 13. That's how many consecutive playoff games Paul's teams (the LA Clippers, Rockets, Thunder and now the Phoenix Suns) have lost when Foster has been the game's crew chief. And Paul's playoff record overall is 2-17 dating back to that game in 2008, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
That history is in the forefront again Tuesday, with Foster assigned to referee the Suns' important Game 2 with the Clippers. Already down 1-0 and playing at home, it's basically a must-win game for Phoenix.
There are always three teams on the floor: the home team, the road team and the neutral team.
This is Foster's 29th season, and he is regarded by the league as one of its best, having been assigned to 23 Finals games and been a regular on Game 7s makes it clear he consistently rates highly. Tuesday will be his 228th career playoff game. He is known for being fearless with his whistle, unafraid to make any call at any time anywhere.
But when Foster has officiated Paul, the point guard has clearly felt as if he's at a disadvantage.
"If I was a betting man -- 11 games in a row," Paul lamented after losing Game 3 of the 2021 NBA Finals, which the Suns lost with Foster on the call.
Phoenix lost Game 6 of the Finals with Foster working the game, taking the streak to 12. Although Giannis Antetokounmpo's 50 points, 14 rebounds and 5 blocks might've had something to do with it.
No. 13 came last year in the first round when the Suns lost Game 2 at home to the New Orleans Pelicans. Phoenix went on to win the series in six games.
Paul, who first called out Foster during his time with the Rockets, said that he has met with the league about his issues with Foster but that it hasn't helped the situation.
In 2018, in a regular-season game his Rockets won, Paul called out Foster after he gave him a technical foul.
"Yeah, Scott Foster at his finest," Paul said that night. "You know what I mean? He just never fails. Some of them, you can [communicate] with. You've just gotta figure out who you can and you can't. I got a tech tonight. I'm over there with [referee Courtney Kirkland] saying, 'That's Scott, that's Scott,' and I got a tech. That's history there. He the man. That's who they pay to see."
During the 2020 Game 7 loss, Paul accused Foster of setting him up to get a delay of game technical foul.
"That situation, the league know[s]," Paul said. "They're going to fine me; I said his name. We already know the history."
Although the news of Foster's assignment certainly made waves with Suns fans, betting markets have not moved.
A representative from Caesars Sportsbook said there had been "nothing significant" regarding the betting since 9 a.m. ET, when Foster was announced as one of the referees.
ESPN's David Payne Purdum contributed to this story.