A Real, Honest-To-Goodness NBA Rivalry? Awesome.S

Matt Barnes was in Kobe's face all game long (and occasionally, quite literally). Lamar Odom called Barnes "a monkey." It makes for a possible finals matchup not involving Kobe and LeBron that, dare I say it, would be anticipated.

It was pretty obvious from the get-go that Barnes was assigned to the "make Kobe's life miserable" beat. It appears to have worked, since Kobe's 12-for-30 from the field was well off his season and career averages. And, of course, Orlando won.

But it's the psychological warfare we love, like this playground move in the third:

Give Kobe credit; he didn't flinch. But there's no doubt Barnes got under the skin of the Lakers.

Bryant smiled after the game Sunday and said he enjoyed Barnes' competitive fire, which produced double technical fouls at one point and had Barnes bordering on ejection. But Barnes also caught the eye of Bryant's teammate, Lamar Odom, who interjected while getting dressed after the game upon hearing Ron Artest asked by reporters about Barnes.

Odom yelled out that Barnes was "a monkey," adding: "He picked the right game to act tough."

Coming from another player (say, Pau Gasol, whose Spanish countrymen have had problems with that word in the past), this might be a bigger deal. But Odom quickly defused it, explaining that it's a Rick Ross reference. Barnes was cool with it too.

But Phil Jackson said Barnes should have been pulled from the game because of his physical play, while Barnes insinuated that he had to goad Kobe into playing rough, or the refs would have given him every call.

It looks like we have two teams who legitimately don't like each other. That's a rarity in today's game, and it's very, very welcome.

Lamar Odom calls Matt Barnes "a monkey" and adds: "He picked the right game to act tough." [OC Register]
Matt Barnes on Kobe: "If you let him mentally get you, you don't have a chance" [Orlando Sentinel]