The play could be the single reason why the Los Angeles Lakers miss the 2013 NBA playoffs. Kobe Bryant injured his ankle on the last play of the Lakers’ 94-92 loss to the Atlanta Hawks when he landed on small forward Dahntay Jones. Should Jones have been called for a foul on the play?
Bryant missed the 18-foot shot attempt with seconds left on the game clock. He severely sprained his ankle after landing on Jones’ foot, for which the NBA is now saying there should have been a foul called. If the referees were doing their job correctly, Bryant would have been awarded two free throw attempts, which would have given Los Angeles the opportunity to tie the game.
Considering the Lakers are fighting for their playoff lives in the eighth seed of the Western Conference, every game matters down the stretch.
“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,” the NBA stated on their website.
A defender must allow the shooter a clean area to land in or be whistled for a violation. The purpose of this rule is to protect the shooter, who cannot control what happens around him while he is in the process of taking a shot. This is why nine out of 10 times, defenders will jump to the side of the shooter when contesting a shot attempt instead of sliding underneath them.
Bryant is upset because he could have been seriously hurt and the referees missed an opportunity to enforce the rule to keep players safe.
“As defensive players, you can contest shots, but you can’t walk underneath players,” Bryant said, according to ESPN.com. “That’s dangerous for the shooter.”
Of course, Jones has defended his play and has stated that he did nothing wrong when defending Bryant’s shot attempt.
“I didn’t try to intentionally come up under him,” Jones explained to ESPN. “I was trying to play as hard as I could, to compete at a high level, to try to help my team win and try to contest the jump shot.”
The game is over and both teams must move on at this point, even if the Lakers are still frustrated with what happened. If anything, the team needs to use this as motivation as they make their final push for a playoff seed. Hopefully, Bryant will be able to heal quickly and get back on the court to help his team win.