Is Hawks’ Jones guilty of dirty play?

Kobe Bryant’s ankle continued to be the center of debate Thursday, a day after the Lakers star suffered a severe sprain attempting a potential game-tying shot in a loss to the Hawks.

Bryant questioned the defense of Dahntay Jones on the final play, claiming he was undercut by the Hawks guard. Bryant stopped short of calling the play dirty — although plenty of people did on TV, radio and the Internet. Jones also had his share of defenders.

The NBA reviewed video of the play Thursday and found that referees missed a foul call on the play. The league said Jones failed to give Bryant the opportunity to land cleanly on the floor, and he should have been granted two free throws.

“I think officials really need to protect shooters,” Bryant told reporters following the game. “You can contest shots, but you can’t walk underneath players. That’s dangerous for the shooter.

“…When I go to contest shots I’m always very conscious about making sure I don’t walk underneath them. It’s just a very, very dangerous play. Especially if I’m fading away, there’s no rhyme or reason why I should come down anywhere near somebody’s foot.”

Bryant sent a Tweet late Wednesday following the 96-92 loss that called for a foul, using a hashtag that read #dangerousplay.

Jones sent several Tweets of his own Wednesday night after learning of Bryant’s comments. On Thursday, he appeared on the ESPN program “First Take” to further defend his actions.

“The play, I don’t think was dirty because all I was trying to do was contest a jump shot,” Jones told the network. “Yes, it was a fadeaway, but when you deal with shooters or high-profile scorers, you have to try to get as close to them as possible to contest jump shots.

“So, even though he faded away, you still don’t give up on a play. You try to still contest it. That’s all I was trying to do. I wasn’t trying to do anything dirty. We played 48 minutes of basketball before that. There were not issues before that. And I wouldn’t take him out on the last play of the game.”

Jones refused an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the incident Thursday, an off day for the Hawks. The team also refused to make him available, saying he would address the situation following a shootaround in preparation for Friday’s home game against the Suns.

Jones was guarding Bryant when he missed the baseline jump shot with 2.6 seconds remaining. Bryant turned his ankle when he landed, and he stayed down on the court for several minutes. He eventually was helped to the locker room. An X-ray done after the game was negative.

The Lakers said Bryant would be out indefinitely. The team was off Thursday after traveling to Indianapolis, and there was no further update.

Bryant said he landed on Jones’ foot. Jones took exception to the fact that Bryant kicked his leg out while falling back for the shot.

“I didn’t feel him touch my foot,” Jones told the network. “I felt like we collided because of the kick out, and you are not supposed to be able to kick out. The kick knocked him off balance and knocked him to come down awkwardly.

“I wasn’t trying to walk up under him and intentionally try to hurt the man. I do have a lot of respect for him.”

Jones claimed in his interview that there is no history between the players, despite the fact that he was called for fouls for pushing and tripping Bryant in the 2009 Western Conference finals while playing for the Nuggets. The trip was labeled a Flagrant 1 foul. Jones said he was deserving of that punishment and moved on.

Clearly, Bryant was not ready to let it go following the game.

“I can’t get my mind past the fact that I got to wait a year to get revenge,” Bryant said.

Bryant finished with 31 points, 28 in the second half, as he rallied the Lakers from a double-digit deficit. He drained a long 3-pointer with 18.2 seconds left to bring the Lakers within a point. After one Hawks made free throw, Jones controlled the ball and drove to his right, pulling up for a shot along the baseline that bounced off the rim with 2.6 seconds remaining.

“Mind you, I don’t know that he is going to fade away,” Jones told the network. “So with eight seconds on the clock I have an (isolation play) at the top of the key. He is going into a move, and I’m just reacting to him. I wasn’t trying to intentionally walk into him. I was just reacting to what was going on. I saw him fade away, and I still tried to get closer to him and put my hands up, so he had to see a body. I’m just not supposed to give up on a play.”