NBA: Refs missed foul call on Kobe

MINNEAPOLIS -- Everyone in the Timberwolves' locker room Wednesday night believed Kobe Bryant got away with a foul that allowed the Los Angeles Lakers to hold on to a much-needed victory in Minnesota.

On Thursday, the NBA agreed: The league informed the Timberwolves that the referee crew should have called Bryant for a foul on a potential game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer.

"Video review by the league office confirmed that Kobe Bryant fouled [Ricky] Rubio while Rubio was in his shooting motion," the league said on its website. "Rubio should have been awarded three free throws."

"They said that? Doggone it," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said sarcastically before his team played the Bucks on Thursday night. "Well, it makes us even. It all works out."

D'Antoni was referring to the no-call against Atlanta's Dahntay Jones earlier this month when he undercut Bryant as the Lakers' star was attempting a potential game-tying jump shot.

D'Antoni did not want to pile on the officials, however.

"Those are tough calls and the referees want you to kind of determine the game," D'Antoni said. "They should call a foul, I think, in theory, but also in theory they want players to decide the game. So, I can understand it.

"It's easy to criticize, but it's hard. That's a hard job. We go back and watch tape and we still argue in the summertime, 'What is a block? What is a charge? And what's a foul, what isn't a foul. Who pushed? Who didn't push? Who flopped? Who didn't flop?' We're watching film and we have a hard time. They got to make those decisions (immediately). They're doing the best they can do it; they always do. I get mad at them, they get mad at me, but I know that everybody is doing the best they can do."

The NBA's admission won't change the outcome of the game, a 120-117 victory for the Lakers, who have beaten the Timberwolves 22 consecutive games and are clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. It also may do little to assuage a feeling in the Timberwolves' organization that they are not getting the same respect from the officials that teams with more stars receive.

But it will at least give Rubio, coach Rick Adelman and the rest of a frustrated team a little bit of solace that their disappointment was justified this time.

"We have to earn the respect," Rubio said. "But I don't understand how things go sometimes. We just want to play basketball, play hard as we can and do all the things. Sometimes it's not fair because we give 100 percent and sometimes we can't control things. But we have to improve things that we can control."

Bryant, who scored 31 points, stepped to the line for his second free throw with 3.4 seconds remaining and a chance to ice the game. He struck a pose after releasing the shot, which resulted in him being caught out of position when the ball bounced off the rim and into Rubio's hands.

The point guard zipped by Bryant and darted up the court, rising up for a 28-foot runner. He released it just before the buzzer sounded and Bryant came from behind to try to block the shot. Replays showed that Bryant hit Rubio's right wrist. When no foul was called, an exasperated Rubio protested, but referee Jason Phillips dismissed him.

Adelman was asked after the game if he thought Rubio was fouled.

"What do you think?" the coach said. "I mean, c'mon. The guy should've never gone and tried to block the shot. But he did. What are you going to say?"

Bryant scoffed at the notion that he fouled Rubio.

"That's not a foul," he said. "You don't call that (stuff)."

The play has renewed the theory in some corners that superstar players are treated differently by the officials. The league and referees have long disputed this notion, which Wolves forward Chase Budinger was asked about after the game.

"When you're playing against the Lakers, it's always going to be tough," Budinger said when asked about the idea of star treatment. "When you're playing against Kobe and Dwight [Howard] and big superstars like that, you're going to have your hands full with them."

The Wolves also were seething about a technical foul given to J.J. Barea earlier in the fourth quarter, along with several calls earlier in the game.

"It was tough all night long," Adelman said. "Really tough."

Earlier this month, Barea was ejected from a game for a flagrant foul 2 against Miami Heat guard Ray Allen. The NBA later downgraded the foul to a flagrant 1, saying Barea should not have been ejected.

"We've been through it all year, dealing with stuff like that," Barea said. "It didn't go our way. We've just got to learn from it and keep fighting for the next one."

Information from ESPNLosAngeles.com's Dave McMenamin was used in this report.