Any time a Lakers game comes down to the final shot, and Kobe Bryant doesn't take that shot, the play is going to the topic of some discussion.
So, naturally, there was a great deal of talk about Derek Fisher's unsuccessful 3-pointer from the corner at the end of Denver's 106-103 win over the Lakers in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.
"I thought they'd foul Kobe," said Lakers coach Phil Jackson. "They were just naturally going to foul him. I thought Fisher would be open for the shot. We'd have a 3-point opportunity as opposed to having to foul and going to the free-throw line and manufacture 3-points."
It looked for a moment that, off the inbounds play with 4.3 seconds left, that Fisher would have a wide-open look. But Denver center Nene jumped out and pressured Fisher as he shot.
"I had a pretty good look at it," Fisher said. "I figured they were going to try to foul to prevent us from shooting a 3. I think I got rid of it a little quicker than I probably had to.
"Definitely, you don't want to put yourself in a position where you need that kind of shot to try and tie the game."
Nuggets coach George Karl did, indeed, want his team to foul before the Lakers could get off a 3-pointer.
"I thought Nene got caught a little bit," said Nuggets coach George Karl, "but he got out onto Fisher, trying to deny Kobe a touch. ... You can cover Kobe and he can still shoot. And if we had a chance to foul, we were going to foul. But I don't think Fisher gave us that chance."
And how did Bryant feel about being a decoy, rather than the shooter?
"I always want the ball," said Bryant. "I want the ball every play, you know what I mean? That doesn't change down the stretch, for sure.
"But Fisher has also made big shots. So he had a good look. Nene made a great play, jumped in there, got a piece of the ball. But we've seen Derek knock those shows down how many times? So I can live with that."
The non-call they'll recall: The Lakers might have avoided that situation if things had gone a little better on a jump ball with 18.6 seconds left. Pau Gasol won the tip to Trevor Ariza, but Ariza lost it to J.R. Smith as he fell to the court -- with some help, in Jackson's eyes.
"Looked to me like (Carmelo) Anthony pushed on Trevor and Trevor tried to get rid of the ball, and no foul was called and they recovered the basketball," said Jackson. "Trevor tried to get rid of it because he was afraid he was going to be called" for traveling as he fell.
Said Gasol, "Unfortunately those little plays, in a game so close, make a big difference. If it goes the other way, maybe now we could be in a different state of mind. It went the other way. What are you going to do?"
Out of nowhere: Funny how guys go from zero to hero from one game to the next in a playoff series.
Case in point: Linas Kleiza.
The Nuggets' swing man barely played seven minutes in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. His line score was all zeros, save for a foul and a steal.
Thursday, in Game 10, Kleiza played 21:41 and had 16 points and eight rebounds (all in the first half), giving Denver a significant lift from the bench.
"In Game 1, we kept their bench points down," noted Kobe Bryant. "He came in for them and gave them a big boost."
Said Nuggets coach George Karl, "Not only did he make some shots, but he got us eight rebounds in the first half and it seemed like after we got in control of rebounding, we had a lot more confidence in winning the game."
Chauncey Billups said Kleiza "was huge for us in the part of the game that they were kind of running away. They kind of had it their way, and L.K. stepped in after ... not playing very much at all in the last game and even in the last series, eh stepped in and hit some big, big shots for us. Not only that, got some huge rebounds for us."
Kleiza was 4 for 7 on 3-pointers, 4 for 8 overall.
"He made 3s to space the court better," said Karl. "... I don't think we win the game without L.K.'s wild cards. ... He gave us two wild cards. He gave us a scoring wild card and he gave us a rebounding wild card."
A few other postgame comments:
Gasol, who was 5 of 8 from the field, finishing with 17 points and 17 rebounds, on whether he needs to demand the ball more:
"I'm playing hard, as hard as I can. I'm trying to give my best effort out there. When I get the ball, I try to make good decisions and try to be aggressive. We're going to continue to be aggressive and I'm going to continue to do my job as much as I can and hopefully get a few more touches."
Lamar Odom, on the Nuggets' second-quarter run:
"The second quarter I don't' think we did a good enough job of moving the ball. It keeps your defensive energy up when you move the ball and everyone touches it, everyone gets good looks, get the big men involved. We didn't do a good job of executing and that allowed them to get back in the game, and then it was just who's making more plays."
Carmelo Anthony, on a 34-point effort -- against significantly better defensive work -- on the heels of his 39-point night in Game 1:
"You're in the mode, you're in the zone. Making shots. I tell everybody, man, scoring is something that I always can do. That's what got me to where I am right now.
"My main focus is not to score 34 or 39 points. That's not my focus."
Anthony on guarding Bryant (10 for 20, 32 points), who had guarded him successfully in Game 1:
"I challenged myself to guard the best guys, whoever I'm playing against. A guy like Kobe, man, is a tough match for anybody. He's a great player. He's a great scorer. Can put the ball in the basket at any given time. ...
"I'm telling myself just make it tough for him. I always keep a hand in his face, try to body. I know I'm bigger than him. ... If he makes a tough shot with my hand in his face, I can live with that."