Timberwolves fans knew it immediately Wednesday night at Target Center, but just to confirm: The NBA on Thursday determined that officials indeed erred when they did not call a foul on the final play of the game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
The league went by a video review and not their hearts, and used it to decide that Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant fouled Wolves guard Ricky Rubio as he launched a long three-pointer at the final buzzer.
Rubio should have been rewarded three free throws, the NBA said. If he had made all three, the game would have gone to overtime.
Instead, Rubio's shot flew left and fell short as the buzzer sounded while referee Jason Phillips ruled there had been no contact when Bryant had contested the shot while closing fast from behind.
The NBA's ruling doesn't change anything about the Lakers' 120-117 victory, other than to support after the fact Rubio's incredulous reaction when Phillips insisted there was no foul.
Both Rubio and Wolves coach Rick Adelman declined after the game to answer questions about whether each thought Bryant got superstar treatment.
"You're not going to goad me into that," Adelman said.
Rubio was asked whether Bryant and the 16-time NBA champion Lakers get calls and officials' respect that a Wolves team that hasn't made the playoffs since 2004 doesn't get.
"We have to earn it, we have to earn our respect," Rubio said. "I don't understand how things go sometimes. ... Sometimes it's not fair because we give 100 percent and sometime we can't control things, but we have to improve things we can control."
After the game, Bryant was dismissive of the Wolves' notion that they had gotten robbed.
"That's not a foul," he said.
He also disagreed with what the NBA the next morning concluded.
"I don't think I got him," Bryant said. "But, you know, that's a tough call to make, man. I just put my hand there. It's not like I went out and smacked him across the arm or anything like that."
If Phillips had whistled the foul and if Rubio had received the three free throws and made them all, the Wolves would have had to overcome a Lakers team that led them by 15 points in the third and by five points with 40 seconds left in the five-minute overtime.
"We would have went into overtime and won the game," Bryant said when asked what if a foul had been called. "Simple as that."
Now those are options
Had Wednesday's game gone to overtime, Bryant would have gone with five fouls. Los Angeles point guard Steve Nash would have had five and center Dwight Howard four as well.
Howard, though, got into third-quarter foul trouble and still delivered 25 points, 16 rebounds, five steals, and five blocked shots.
"Yeah, but they just put [Pau] Gasol there," Adelman said. "They've got two guys who are All-Stars."
Bud is getting back
Wolves forward Chase Budinger's 14 points on 6-for-12 shooting Wednesday was his best scoring night in his five games back from November knee surgery. He is averaging 9.6 points on 43.9 percent shooting in those five games.
"I'm feeling more confident attacking the rim and getting to the basket, landing on my knee and not really thinking about it too much," Budinger said. "It's a good feeling and each game it's getting better. Hopefully, I keep progressing and get that athleticism back. That's the next part."
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