Kobe Doing (Selfish) Work?
At the end of the day, everybody who watched Game 5 of the NBA Finals is going to recall what Kobe did in the third quarter, look at the box score and say Kobe Bryant had a great day against the Boston Celtics even though the Lakers lost 92-86. And it’s hard for anyone to argue with that given that Kobe scored 38 points on 13 of 27 shooting, a percentage that was hurt only by the fact that he was basically compelled to take some terrible shots late in the fourth quarter to help keep his team alive.
However, even as somewhat of a stats guy myself, I won’t let the numbers fool me. And as a guy who loves to break down the game tape as well, I won’t let Kobe’s brilliant third quarter overshadow everything else I saw on the court in Game 5.
In case you don’t get where I’m headed, Kobe didn’t have a great game. In fact, I would even go as far to say that in some respects, he hurt his team last night. I’m not trying to excuse the effort of his teammates in any way, because their inability to even show a heart beat in Game 5 was more than enough to seal the Lakers fate last night. Still, Kobe’s poor shot-selection, hogging of the ball, and 1:1 assists to turnover ratio didn’t exactly help the Lakers cause either.
Kobe’s 3rd quarter, for the umpteenth time, was masterful. He couldn’t miss, and without him, the Lakers would have been blown out in the third and the Celtics may have never looked back. But did you see the shots Kobe was taking? Outside of an awkward-looking alley-oop play, all of Kobe’s 3rd quarter points came via the jump shot. While it was a rare display in the mastery of the mid-range game, Kobe’s shots were often contested and seldom the result of the Lakers offensive system. In Kobe’s defense, his teammates were making the Triangle offense look more like a circle, but Kobe didn’t help things by often demanding the ball early in the shot clock, allowing the Celtics to set up and key in on whatever Bryant was about to do offensively.
Simply put, Kobe was selfish and should have passed the ball more. That hadn’t been the case for much of the playoffs, but for all of Kobe’s tough shots last night with Ray Allen’s hand in his face or two defenders running at him, Kobe had other options most of the time. Lamar Odom, who was 4 of 6, certainly deserved more touches. In fact, Odom was the only Laker that had a positive plus-minus differential in the game, and when you watched Odom get his touches, you can understand why–the Celtics had no answer for him last night. The fact that Odom had just 6 shots last night is a testament to the fact Kobe was going after his at times when he didn’t have to. Some of those difficult shots Kobe took should have been passes to Odom, or even Pau Gasol, who despite having an off night, still shot an adequate 42% from the field.
For perhaps the first time this series though, the biggest knock on Kobe wasn’t his shooting; it was his overall concentration level. Kobe’s 4 turnovers were the result of some really bad decisions. During a crucial moment in the fourth quarter he just essentially dribbled the ball away. In addition, he threw away a couple of balls on bad passes. Also in the concentration department, Kobe failed to give Rajon Rondo his full, undivided attention. Rondo was credited with 1 offensive rebound, but there were numerous times in which Kobe allowed Rondo to position himself for an offensive rebound without so much as putting a hand Rondo in an effort to block him out. And while I understand that they were cross-matched, there were times when Kobe had more than ample time to get back on defense, but Rondo just beat him down court and created plays for either himself or his teammates.
As Lakers fan read this, I’m sure they’re scoffing. I’m sure they want to look at last night’s game and only make the case that Kobe needed more help. Kobe did need more help, but he also could have helped himself. I’m not saying that had Kobe been flawless the Lakers would have won the game, but I’m also not going to sit here and accept the notion that Kobe had nothing to do with the team losing. The Lakers supporting cast could have played better, but Kobe could have played better as well. As a result, the team as a whole is down 3 games to 2, and if Kobe has another game like the one he had in Game 5, 38 points or not, there won’t be a Game 7.
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