ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Orlando Magic were beaming over the way journeyman forward Matt Barnes stayed in the face of superstar Kobe Bryant Sunday, making him work for every shot, even if he did score a game-high 34 points.
The Lakers, in an almost arrogant fashion, were laughing about it, even in defeat.
Barnes and Bryant got a double technical foul early in the second half when they tangled. They spent much of the rest of the game exchanging not-so-pleasant remarks.
"He (Barnes) got the crowd into it. (Former professional wrestler) Ric Flair does the same thing,'' said Lakers veteran Lamar Odom. "He had all the wrestling regalia today. All he needed was a cape and some tights.''
Odom clearly was annoyed by the way Barnes played against the Lakers star. The Magic won, 96-94, but the Lakers had no interest in crediting Barnes.
Bryant hit Barnes with an elbow to the chest after he dunked on him in the third period. Barnes, during an inbounds play, faked a throw into the face of Bryant, who hardly flinched. The two exchanged more than the normal share of bumps for perimeter players when Barnes was guarding him.
Odom, without being asked, called Barnes "a monkey,'' when he heard someone across the locker room asking teammate Ron Artest about Barnes. He was asked later about the remark.
"That's an inside joke,'' Odom said. "The rappers that are feuding with each other, Rick Ross and 50 Cent. They are feuding with each other. That's an inside joke with this team. Matt Barnes is a cool dude. If I call him a monkey, I don't mean it. If I call him a super hero, I don't mean it. He did what he had to do. He played a great game, got the crowd involved.''
Barnes, who joined the Magic this summer as a free agent, scored 10 points in 32 minutes. This is his seventh NBA team in his seven-year career.
It was his 3-point basket with 1:10 remaining, just after Bryant missed his 3-point attempt, that gave the Magic a 93-87 lead.
When asked about what effect Barnes had on the game and on him, Bryant just smiled slyly.
"It is entertaining,'' he said. "It is entertaining.''
Bryant later came back to the topic of Barnes, and he reluctantly gave him some credit in a roundabout way.
"He tries to play physical, but him bumping me and Kenyon Martin bumping me are two different things,'' Bryant said. "You have to be competitive. I enjoy it. I hate playing against guys who just roll over.''