Aside from imagining Phil Jackson needing a scorecard to ID some of the Nuggets who’ve managed to reduce the Western Conference finals to a Best-Of-3 (ie. “Linas Kleiza, having regressed his way out of the playing rotation by the end of the season, scoring 10 points in 13 minutes off the bench to help take up Melo’s scoring slack” — what, no love for Renaldo Balkman?), the Denver Post’s Dave Kreiger is certain the Lakers “have already begun their campaign against the aggression of the aggrieved, the Nuggets’ current calling card.”

Jackson was complaining about the officiating as soon as Game 4 ended. Like New Orleans coach Byron Scott in the first round, the Lakers are now suggesting Nuggets guard Dahntay Jones is a dirty player for tripping Bryant near the end of the third quarter.

The Nuggets shrugged it off. In fact, Karl likes to hear opponents complain about the officiating, as he mentioned when Scott did it in the first round. Generally speaking, it is a loser’s lament.

The NBA is supposed to be a star’s league. Magic, Larry, Michael, Shaq, Kobe. These are the players that win titles. This is why LeBron is thought to have next.

The Nuggets are still six wins away, but Monday’s win put them in better position than they have been in 32 NBA seasons. ESPN’s hype machine is doing its best to make them famous now, but they’re a little late to the task. Good luck finding an unlikelier group of championship contenders.

CBS Sports’ Ken Berger doesn’t quite share the Denver columnists’ unabashed enthusiasm for the Nuggets’ run, calling Jones, “the modern-day version of Anthony Mason. (Or, for our younger readers, Bruce Bowen.)”

Jones already had two flagrant fouls (penalty one) in the playoffs before he stuck his leg out and tripped Bryant with about four minutes left in the third quarter Monday night. Jones’ two-handed push in Bryant’s back in Game 3 had been upgraded to a flagrant foul upon review by the league office, which won’t need much time to upgrade Jones’ latest transgression to his third flagrant of the playoffs.

If that happens — and it absolutely should, given the blatant nature of the play — Jones will have three flagrant points against him entering Game 5. Another flagrant foul-penalty one would result in an automatic one-game suspension. A more serious flagrant-two would get Jones suspended for two games.

Jones, for his part, employed the Iran-Contra defense — “I don’t remember the play,” he said — and insisted, “I think you’re making too much of one play. … I play hard and people don’t like contact. People don’t like you getting in their face. It’s my job to frustrate and play hard and make [Bryant] work for things. If I just let him score on me every time, then I wouldn’t be doing my job. I wouldn’t be able to stay on the floor, so I don’t understand what you people want me to do.”