Nuggets may be headed for technical knockout
Five technical fouls, one flagrant foul, one ejection, three busy referees.
Game 1 wasn’t so much the start of a series as it was the beginning of an undercard. Tempers weren’t the main event, but they bobbed and weaved into the flow Sunday at Staples Center.
In one corner, the Denver Nuggets pushed and shoved on a couple of layup sequences.
In the other corner, the Lakers managed to keep level heads, picking up only one technical foul, which happened to go to Kobe Bryant . . . again.
The Nuggets aren’t known for being the latest incarnation of Detroit’s “Bad Boys” teams, but Bryant didn’t seem to mind.
An avowed devotee of old-school basketball, he laughed it off.
“It’s like vintage ‘80s, except for if you knock a guy to the floor, you’ll get suspended for a game or so,” Bryant said. “It’s playoff basketball. It’s nothing personal. There’s no dislikes or anything like that, but guys want to win, so guys are going to commit hard fouls and play physical and talk a little trash.”
Bryant was hit with a technical foul after jawing with Denver forward Kenyon Martin with 4:30 left to play.
“Just having a good old healthy conversation,” Bryant said, smiling.
In a slight case of here-we-go-again, players are allowed six technical fouls in the playoffs before being suspended for one game after picking up their seventh. Bryant had 15 in the regular season and played the last 10 games without picking up a 16th technical that would have led to a one-game suspension.
He was somber when asked about toeing the line in the playoffs.
“If I get suspended a game in the playoffs for that, I’ll retire,” he said. “I’ll just quit.”
There wasn’t much quit in the Lakers on Sunday.
J.R. Smith picked up a flagrant foul for crashing into Luke Walton as he attempted a layup, but Walton answered by making two free throws.
Bryant almost ended up among the baseline photographers after Anthony Carter fouled him on a layup attempt and then pushed him after the play. Bryant, however, made three free throws -- two for the personal foul and one for a technical assessed to Carter.
Carter later said he was retaliating because he was hit in the face by Bryant on the play. Bryant disagreed, saying he was simply off-balance.
“That was completely unintentional,” he said. “I’m going out of bounds, going after a ball . . . I had to be Neo from ‘The Matrix’ to see him behind me.”
Finally, Allen Iverson was ejected with 2:10 left to play after arguing a non-call. Iverson didn’t disagree with the ejection.
“I deserved to get thrown out at that point,” he said.
The Nuggets easily led the NBA with 54 technical fouls during the regular season, and Martin was suspended for a game for accruing too many flagrant fouls.
Game 1 started at noon, the Lakers’ earliest tipoff time this season at Staples Center, but Coach Phil Jackson wasn’t worried.
“No, Shaq’s in Phoenix now,” Jackson said dryly. “He’s not here. There’s some guys that just can’t get to bed at night, and he was one of those kind of guys. I think this team gets to bed.”
Andrew Bynum is out for the first round, and the Lakers move onward. They have no choice.
“I don’t think they’ve been looking over their shoulder at all for him,” Jackson said without rancor. “I think they’ve been encouraging him and are very positive with him about, ‘Get back, we’re going to need you, we want to see you playing with us,’ that type of thing. But I don’t think they’ve been looking over their shoulder.”
Coby Karl was inactive for Game 1, along with Bynum and Trevor Ariza. . . . Ronny Turiaf played only three minutes in part because he had a sore throat. . . . Ariza, sidelined three months because of a broken bone in his right foot, will have another medical exam Friday. If cleared, he could begin increasing his physical activity. . . . Jackson could tell it was that time of the year because of what he called the increase in “flag-ettes.” Said Jackson: “Those hanging from the cars, those are kind of an indication of playoff time.”