Kobe Bryant has had a rough week, with his L.A. Lakers losing three straight games by blow-out margins, including the Christmas Day laugher against the heir apparent Miami Heat. Tuesday night's game against the San Antonio Spurs was similarly a long, tough slog for Kobe, who shot just 9-27 on the night and also had five turnovers.
As the Lakers crumbled, frustrations ran high for the emotional Bryant. It all boiled over in the second quarter with the game still close as Kobe took exception to Spurs guard George Hill's tough defense.
Hill was unwilling to back down, and for good reason: he did nothing beyond the pale, at least on this possession. Kobe stuck a finger in Hill's face in an intimidation attempt, and Hill went right back at him. The Spurs have never backed down from the Lakers, so perhaps this type of unfearing reaction is rivalry-specific. But if not, prepare for other NBA players to smell the Lakers' blood in the water and come at them in overly aggressive fashion.
Hill, in fact, told the San Antonio Express-News' Jeff McDonald that Kobe's expression of anger was a sign Hill's defense was where it needed to be.
"I don't feel like I need to back down from anyone," Hill said. "If he's going to elbow me, I know I've got him where I want him."
That was Bryant's fifth technical of the season. He had 14 in all of last season. Sixteen technical fouls in a season triggers the league's rather tough suspension sequence.