More nutty referee stuff

An anonymous Denver Nuggets player claimed the Lakers paid $50,000 to win Game 5 of the Western Conference finals Wednesday night at Staples Center. He did not reveal who received the money or who wrote the check. Or, whether it was in cash.

The implication was clear, however.

The Nugget believed the referees were paid to call the game in the Lakers’ favor, a charge the Lakers dismissed Thursday. The Nuggets were whistled for 30 fouls compared to 22 for the Lakers. Denver shot 30 free throws, and the Lakers shot 35.

“The Lakers paid $50,000 to win that game. They got their money’s worth,” a Nugget told the Denver Post newspaper after Game 5, not wishing to be identified for fear of receiving a fine from the league.

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Frustrated Nugget

Denver coach George Karl wasn’t pleased with the officials’ work in Game 5. He was upset because he believed Lakers coach Phil Jackson campaigned for calls after he criticized the referees after Game 4. It wasn’t as if the Nuggets got jobbed by the refs, though. They had more fouls than the Lakers, 30-22. The Lakers shot more free throws, 35-30. But it wasn’t as if the numbers were skewed dramatically in the Lakers’ favor.

Here’s what Karl had to say:

“There’s a home-court edge and intensity to the game. I thought they (the Lakers) got the benefit of the whistle. But it just seems like (it’s) very frustrating for me to sit here and have to worry about every — like there’s gamesmanship in the press conference on refereeing. I wish it wasn’t — that’s not part of coaching for me.

“I mean, Melo (Carmelo Anthony) got beat up tonight. And the same type of attitude and actions that we had that got us to the rim and got us a lot of easy baskets. … Tonight, they defended better, at least from the standpoint of the scoreboard. The stat sheet says they defended better. They blocked more shots. We didn’t get as many paint points.

“But I’m not sure that’s the case. And I think there’s some good things that my team did, that for three quarters it was a pretty evenly matched game. I think it will be very easy to get my team ready to play for Game 6.

“I’m not going to get fined. I’m not going to get into the game of — Phil is much better at it than I am, so much more philosophical about the whistle and how it changed. It was a very difficult whistle to play, play in the game. No question about that. Every player in my locker room is frustrated, from guards to big guys.

“Look at the stat sheet. (Pau) Gasol goes after at least 20 jump shots, 20 shots to the rim and gets one foul. Our big guys have 16. I don’t know. Nene has six fouls, three or four of them don’t exist. And it’s frustrating when you take one of your best big guys off the court for that many minutes.

“But, again, it just seems like, I think (Orlando coach) Stan Van Gundy says it right. In the postgame, we’re lobbying for the league to help us with the refereeing. And this is too good of a series. It’s two good teams competing that we’re sitting here just confused by the whistle.”

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Lakers 103, Nuggets 94

FIRST QUARTER
Chauncey Billups was off to a good start by making all three of his shots and scoring nine points. Kobe Bryant took just two shots. The physical play that has defined the series has marked this game, too. Denver outrebounded the Lakes, 14-9.
Lakers 25, Nuggets 25

SECOND QUARTER
The Lakers bench was solid as it made 5 of 12 shots. Bryant took just two shots again. Carmelo Anthony scored 10 points, but the Nuggets had just two offensive rebounds. Sasha Vujacic made a 3-pointer with 3 seconds left to tie the game.
Lakers 56, Nuggets 56

THIRD QUARTER
Shannon Brown made two consecutive baskets, including an unbelievable one-handed dunk over Chris Anderson. Lamar Odom, who played extensively at point guard, followed the dunk with a 3-pointer. The Nuggets squandered a six-point lead. Pau Gasol took and made just one shot.
Lakers 76, Nuggets 76

FOURTH QUARTER
The Lakers dunked over the Nuggets at will and won the physical battle. Kobe Bryant was whacked in the face by Carmelo Anthony, then calmly made both free throws. The Nuggets made just four field goals in this span.
Lakers 103, Nuggets 94

HERO
Lamar Odom
Odom had a double-double with 19 points, 14 rebounds, three assists and four blocks. Odom was in a groove. The highlight of the night was Odom’s dunk over Chris Anderson to give the Lakers an 81-76 lead. Odom even showed his versatility by playing a little point guard in the second half.

GOAT
George Karl
The Nuggets coach said before Wednesday’s game that it’s difficult for the team that loses Game 5 to overcome it. Asked what his team would think if they lost and heard he said that, Karl stammered that his players don’t know what he says in the pre-game chats. Hellllo, George! There’s this thing called the Internet.

STAT
4
The number of shots Kobe Bryant took in the first half. Bryant had two in the first quarter and two in the second. This was a good thing in that the bench was more involved and made 5 of 12 shots in the second quarter. And Bryant did his thing in the third quarter, making two shots in the first three minutes.

QUOTE
“Somewhere over the last six weeks, we’ve become the bad boys of the NBA … I think we want to play aggressive basketball. What was Phil’s term? Unsportsmanlike? I don’t think we’re unsportsmanlike.”
– Nuggets coach George Karl on the physical nature of his team

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Ariza featured in Sports Illustrated

After Monday’s Game 4, Kenyon Martin rather famously informed his teammate Dahntay Jones that “You made it,” because he’d been called a dirty player by national television commentators and the Lakers.

Well, Lakers guard Trevor Ariza is also havign a “you made it” moment, but for far more glamourous reasons. He’s featured in this week’s Sports Illustrated. Lots of really compelling stuff in there, beautifully written as always, by the excellent Lee Jenkins.

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Jackson: “We’re not going to use it as an excuse”

OK, I’ll admit it. I was totally dragging today at practice. Even after my relatively late morning flight home from Denver. By NBA standards, a 9:40 a.m. flight home is on the late side.

It wasn’t until reading Jon Saraceno’s article in USA Today, which had been conveniently left in the press room, that I realized why. The Lakers had just played their 11th game in 22 days. Which means that we sportswriters had just covered our 11th game in 22 days, not to mention the practices and shootarounds in between.

Now, I don’t have Dahntay Jones tripping me on the way to the pressbox, or Kenyon Martin grabbing my arm as I make my way to the lockeroom, but that’s a whole lot of games, travel and basketball in 22 days.

In other words, you can imagine why the entire local and national media seemed fixated on how tired everyone was after the two hard fought games in Denver.

You’ll have to excuse me then, if I don’t do more to set up this quote from Lakers quote Phil Jackson, on how tired his team is and whether fatigue is playing a factor in the series:

“It’s possible. But you know we’re really trying to take care of our players in the process between,” Jackson said. “Guys are doing anything from ice baths to massage, to we’re not asking players to play over 35 minutes, 30 minutes, really, to do anything physical.
So there’s a recovery period, and they have to take care of themselves in that period and we hope they’re doing that off site here.

“But we think that they can respond to this. We’re not going to use it as an excuse.”

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Ariza not thrilled with Smith’s dancing skills

JR Smith was excited. That much was easy to see from his emotional reaction to each of the four 3-pointers he nailed in Denver’s Game 4 win over the Lakers Monday night.

Then he began dancing, doing the “Funky Chicken” right in front of the Lakers bench, and not all of the Lakers shared in his enthusiasm.

“I don’t know if i’m supposed to say (this), but it pissed people off,” Trevor Ariza said. “They hit some shots late in the game, when the game was over, and they got excited about that … that’s cool.”

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Jackson, Lakers fined

Busy, busy day for Stu Jackson, the NBA’s punishment czar who is no relation to Lakers coach Phil Jackson. Jackson fined Jackson and the Lakers $25,000 each for the coach’s critical comments about the officiating in Game 4. Jackson also downgraded Andrew Bynum’s flagrant-1 foul against Denver’s Chris Andersen to a simple personal foul. He then assessed a flagrant-1 foul against the Nuggets’ Dahntay Jones for tripping Kobe Bryant. Publicly, the Lakers were mum on the subject when asked if the Nuggets had crossed the line with their physical play. Privately, they were incensed. Game 5 is Wednesday.

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