The Lakers escaped with a 120-117 victory on Wednesday in Minnesota after Kobe Bryant was credited with blocking Ricky Rubio's potential game-tying three-pointer at the buzzer. But the Timberwolves were livid that Bryant wasn't whistled for a foul on the play, a call that would've sent Rubio to the line for three free throws and a chance to force overtime. Rubio immediately complained to referee Jason Phillips, motioning that Bryant had hit his arm, and Minnesota coach Rick Adelman walked out near midcourt and raised his arms in disgust.
After watching the replay, Timberwolves television analyst Jim Petersen said, "Oh, my gosh. That's just a horrible call by Jason Phillips, who did not have the courage to call that against Kobe Bryant. Awful no-call." (Petersen had more to say about the play and the "gutless" Phillips later on Twitter.)
Bryant, of course, disagreed.
"That's not a foul," Bryant told reporters after the game. "They ain't calling that s---. I don't think I got him. That's just a tough call to make. I just put my hand in. It's not like I went out and smacked him across the arm or anything like that."
Not that it would've mattered if the Timberwolves had tied it at the end of regulation, according to Bryant.
"We would have gone into overtime and won the game," Bryant said. "It's as simple as that."
Asked if Rubio was fouled, Adelman said: "What do you think? I mean, come on." A reporter then asked Adelman if it matters who is trying to block the shot. "You're not going to goad me into that," the longtime coach said. (See video of Adelman's news conference here.)
"Sometimes it’s tough when you give everything and something like that happens," said Rubio, who helped the Timberwolves rally from a 14-point deficit with less than six minutes left in the fourth quarter.
This is the second time in two weeks that Bryant has been involved in a controversial no-call in the closing seconds of a tight game. On March 13 in Atlanta, Bryant missed a potential game-tying jumper with five seconds left, his left foot landing on the right foot of Atlanta's Dahntay Jones. Bryant sprained his ankle on the closely guarded sequence, which he described as a "dangerous play that should have been called." The next day, the NBA announced that the referees should have called a foul on Jones.
With 4.9 seconds remaining in the Atlanta Hawks’ 96-92 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on March 13, the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant attempted a jump shot over the Hawks’ Dahntay Jones. After review at the league office, video replay confirmed that referees missed a foul call on Jones as he challenged Bryant’s shot and did not give him the opportunity to land cleanly back on the floor. Bryant should have been granted two free throws.
Wednesday's victory enabled the Lakers to stay one game ahead of Utah for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
UPDATE: The NBA reportedly informed the Timberwolves that the referees should have called a foul on Bryant.