Breaking down altercations with Lakers' Kobe Bryant and Orlando's Matt Barnes
With each altercation, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant stared at Orlando forward Matt Barnes with stone-cold silence. Bryant gave Barnes the stare after tussling with him over a rebound in the third quarter, drawing a double technical foul as a referee stepped between them. Bryant gave Barnes the stare after he dunked over him off a tip in. And Bryant gave Barnes the stare when he pretended to throw the ball at his face during an inbounds pass, something that didn't make Bryant flinch for even a nano second.
Bryant's didn't appear to say much, at least to what was visible on the television screen. But he didn't need to because his body language said it all. Through Bryant's stone-cold stares, he reminded Barnes who he was and that nothing was going to intimidate him. Of course, when it's all said and done, the Lakers walked away as the losers, dropping a 96-94 decision Sunday to Orlando. And despite Bryant's many late fourth-quarter points, his team-leading 34 points came on 12-for-30 shooting with Barnes mainly drawing the defensive assignment.
This type of contentious matchup isn't anything new for Bryant. Heck, leading up to last week's game against Denver, reserve guard J.R. Smith tweeted "Don't get me wrong kobe is great but not when he play me." Bryant later said that tweet was all in fun and that the two are actually friends. But it didn't appear that way with Barnes. So if anything, a possible Lakers-Magic rematch in the Finals may actually produce something more than groans that LeBron and Co. aren't there to make the league, Nike, sportswriters and fans happy. Tweeted The Times' Mike Bresnahan: "I'm thinking today would have been a bad day to tell Kobe that Matt Barnes is on my fantasy team. (I didn't use him today, though.)"
Here is a breakdown of all the incidents involving Barnes and Bryant, something he told reporters he actually enjoyed. "I hate playing against guys who just roll over," Bryant told the Orange County Register's Kevin Ding. "That's no fun."
Third quarter, 11:35 - 11:26
While Vince Carter attempted a three pointer from the top of the key, Bryant boxed out Barnes in the paint. As soon as the ball swished through the net, the contact caused Barnes to get in Bryant's face. He immediately threw up his hands, a referee intervened and Bryant continued to stare at Barnes straight ahead. Both were assessed technical fouls, but ESPN analyst Mark Jackson argued Bryant didn't warrant a technical.
"That's not a double technical foul," Jackson said. "That's a technical foul on Matt Barnes afterwards. You punish the guy who is trying to be innocent and just playing hard basketball."
Third quarter, 9:41 - 9:34
After Magic Center Dwight Howard missed on a post up, Barnes made a two-handed slam on the tip in as Bryant threw his right arm up on his side. Barnes landed a step toward Bryant after the dunk, causing Bryant to elbow Barnes to the neck. Bryant then threw up his hands as Barnes approached him. Neither Bryant nor Barnes were charged for a foul though. A technical was actually called on Howard after he mouthed off to the refrerees after Barnes' dunk.
Said ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy: "That should've been a technical on Kobe Bryant as well."
Third quarter: 8:29
Before Barnes made his way to the baseline to make an inbounds pass, Bryant and Barnes walked and brushed past each other. It was something that Van Gundy found unnecessary.
"Why are they running into each other?" Van Gundy said. "Why is Matt Barnes doing that? That doesn't make any sense to me, unless he thinks he can entice Kobe Bryant to get thrown out."
Moments later, it became obvious that Bryant wasn't intimidated one bit by Barnes' tactics. When the referee gave Barnes the ball for the inbounds play, Barnes pushed the ball toward Bryant's face. He didn't flinch one bit and stared straight ahead, something Van Gundy joked was the "play of the game." Moments later, the referee intervened and appeared to tell the two to knock it off.
Said Jackson: "Somebody in a Magic uniform or even if I'm [Orlando Coach] Stan Van Gundy, I'd consider pulling Matt Barnes out and having a discussion with him because at the end of the day, we need you on the floor. You're not going to get into the head of Kobe Bryant."
Photo: Referee Tony Brothers (25) steps between Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and Magic forward Matt Barnes after the two traded elbows and were called for technical fouls in the third quarter Sunday. Credit: John Raoux/Associated Press.