The Los Angeles Lakers trailed by 13 points at halftime in Denver as the Nuggets had pulled a Usain Bolt by starting slow, gaining stride then easily speeding past the slower competition.
After the halftime buzzer sounded, Kobe Bryant was livid with the officials. He was visibly frustrated that nothing had been called on his last-second heave from half court. Bryant was probably fouled, but with five seconds remaining, officials have a tendency to swallow their whistles.
In his 17th season, Bryant should have been well aware that he would not get a call at that point, but his frustrations got the better of him, and he was hit with a technical foul. It was his 14th of the season, and if Bryant was to reach 16 technical fouls, he would face a one-game suspension.
"He has to control that," Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said after the loss in Denver. "He knows we can’t afford to lose him for a game."
After the game, Bryant appeared confident that he would have the technical foul rescinded.
Joey Crawford "didn’t know what was going on," Bryant told Lakers’ beat reporter Mark Medina. "Me and the ref were having a simple conversation and he kind of jumped the gun."
Crawford has a reputation for being whistle-happy, and perhaps his most egregious abuse of power was when he kicked San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan out of a game for laughing on the bench.
Bryant was able to reason with the veteran official following the call. Playing in the league for nearly 17 seasons has its advantages.
Bryant was ultimately correct in his post-game comments because the league office proceeded to rescind the technical foul on Tuesday morning.
Bryant still leads the league with 13 technical fouls, but he has yet to be ejected from a single game this season. Dwight Howard has seven technical fouls and has been ejected twice.
With 24 games remaining, Bryant has three opportunities to step over the line with officials before he faces a suspension on his third blowup.
To his credit, Bryant has flirted with the mandatory one-game suspension several times in his career, but he has only missed one game in 16 seasons due to the rule.