Lakers down by 2 with 16 seconds to play. You know who’s getting the ball and so do the Atlanta Hawks. Defensive specialist Dahntay Jones is assigned the unenviable task of sticking Kobe Bryant in the closing moment of a game where a win or a tie is just one clutch shot away. Kobe’s made a career of coming through in moments like this.
Kobe makes a move, gets separation, elevates, fades away and his shot from the baseline is just off the front of the rim.
Kobe is down, holding his ankle and writhing in pain. The worse possible scenario has just unfolded. Lakers 4 game winning streak is snapped and their leader appears to be severely injured. The Lakers now move forward with their playoff hopes hanging in the balance and no assurance of when Kobe will return.
After the game, Kobe didn’t mince words when asked about the final play.
“First and foremost, I think the officials really need to protect shooters,” Bryant said. “Defensive players, you can contest shots, but you can’t walk underneath players.” Kobe went on to cement the point that Jones’ play was anything but routine or natural. “It’s just a very, very dangerous play, especially if I’m fading away. There’s no rhyme or reason why I should come down anywhere near somebody’s foot.”
Place close attention to Jones’ eyes as he moves into Kobe’s space on that final shot. It appears that his eyes are locked in on Kobe’s feet, as if he is targeting Kobe’s landing spot then positioning him legs right below Kobe’s.
Kobe even compared the play to the undercutting of Jalen Rose in the 2000 NBA Finals. Jalen Rose has since admitted that he intentionally tried to take Kobe Bryant out by taking out his legs.
Soon after the game, both Kobe and Dahntay went to Twitter to make their case.
The NBA agreed with Kobe and release an official statement of the final play:
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.
Dahntay was referring to the obvious tripping of Kobe Bryant in the 2009 Western Conference Finals between the Lakers vs. Nuggets.
That wasn’t the only hard foul on Kobe by Dahntay in that series.
It was reported by the Lakers that Kobe is out indefintely with a “severe” ankle sprain. Kobe posted a picture of the swelling of the ankle and it doesn’t look good for him recovering by Friday night’s game at Indiana.
Kobe stated on his twitter account on Thursday that he needed to move on:
Kobe might be ready to move on, but with the Lakers currently just a 1/2 game ahead of the Utah Jazz for the 8th and final playoff spot with 16 games to play, it might be difficult for the Lakers to move on and sustain their current playoff position with Kobe being out for an extended period of time. We’ll learn more on Friday about Kobe’s status, but, by the size of that knot on Kobe’s ankle, it doesn’t look good.