Philadelphia's Allen Iverson is as tough as they come, but after a night of being grabbed, pushed and basically harassed by the Lakers, he made sure Kobe Bryant got an earful in the final moments of Friday's Game 2 loss at Staples Center.
With the Lakers finally breathing easy after surviving a late run by the 76ers, Iverson and Bryant met near midcourt during a free throw to discuss their views on the rest of the best-of-seven series.
"Ask him," Iverson said when asked what the conversation with Bryant was about. "This is just basketball. That's like me telling you about everything I said to every player on the floor all night. Come on, man. It's just basketball. We were out there having fun."
When Iverson left the court, he walked off clapping and high-fiving his teammates, much the way he did after the 76ers lost Game 6 of their Eastern Conference finals matchup against Milwaukee. In that game, Philadelphia also rallied late to make the final score close.
Bryant also downplayed his late-game conversation with Iverson.
"We were just having fun," said Bryant, who outscored Iverson, 31-23.
On his way to scoring 48 points in Game 1, Iverson ripped through Laker guard Derek Fisher's defense and forced him to the bench early. He also had his way against Bryant, and even though Tyronn Lue played him tough, Iverson made two clutch baskets in overtime to lead the 76ers to victory.
It was a much different story Friday night. The Lakers took a page from Philadelphia's book on how to play physical defense and hammered Iverson all over the court. Leading the way with this aggressive style was Fisher, who bounced back from his poor game Wednesday with an impressive effort in denying Iverson the ball during key stretches of the game.
"You can't take anything away from Fisher, he played well," Iverson said. "He had a little of everything. But I don't know when was the last time I was to the foul line only two times, it seems kind of fishy. . . . But I am not complaining because I know the officials are just doing their job."
"But I'm not [bothered by Friday's game]. They had the same people and the same personnel [they had in Game 1]. They are not going to frustrate me. That's not going to happen."
But after missing 19 of 29 shots and not attempting a free throw until the fourth quarter on Friday, Iverson was clearly bothered by how the Lakers defended him.
Numerous times during the game, Iverson complained to officials about the lack of calls when he had the ball. Replays showed several times that he was either smacked in the face or had his elbow hit when he shot. Iverson even picked up a technical foul at the end of the third quarter when he badly missed a three-point attempt after getting hit on his release by Fisher.
"He had a lot of obstacles to overcome tonight," Philadelphia Coach Larry Brown said. "I would hope he'll get a little more respect. He got his technical, that ball went dead right. Then we saw the replay. Allen doesn't miss dead right that often.
"It bothers me that he doesn't get respect. I can see where Todd MacCulloch doesn't get respect. . . . But Allen gives us a chance to win. [The box score] doesn't ever tell the real story. We had a chance to win because of his presence, and that's what I'm most proud of."
That isn't a concern of the Lakers, however, because they know the type of defense they played against Iverson in Game 2 must be repeated throughout the finals.
"I felt that it was important that we play a game that's similar to the game we played on Wednesday night, and see . . . if Philadelphia could sustain how they played on Wednesday," Laker Coach Phil Jackson said. "I'd been very impressed. I didn't think they could shoot at that level, play with that intensity . . . that's tough for a basketball club."