On the last shot of Game 2

May, 17, 2012
5/17/12
9:54
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
So here's the last play from Wednesday's loss (fast forward to about 56 seconds in):



You'll notice (notice again, I'm sure) it was Steve Blake taking the shot, not Kobe Bryant. Any time something like this happens, there will be discussion. Via ESPN Stats and Information, Blake hadn't attempted a game-tying or go-ahead shot in the final 24 seconds of a postseason games since joining the Lakers, and has only one in his career (with Portland in '09, a miss). At the same time, S and I provides this nugget as well:
While conventional wisdom says Kobe Bryant should've had the ball in his hands for the Lakers' final shot instead of Steve Blake, the stats say it was the right decision. Kobe Bryant is 0-for-7 on game-tying and go-ahead shots in the final 10 seconds of playoff games since 2006-07. Meanwhile, his teammates are 4-for-7, including Blake's miss on Wednesday.

Honestly, it's not a stat with heaps of meaning, at least in the implication other players are better suited to take late shots than Kobe. Don't focus on the 4-for-7 part. At least two of those (Ron Artest in Game 5 vs. Phoenix, 2010 and Pau Gasol in Game 6 vs. OKC, 2010) came on ORB/putbacks, as opposed to designed plays or kicks from Kobe. Meanwhile, Bryant's percentage is low mostly because he usually takes very difficult shots in those situations, a different (and totally valid) discussion entirely. The issue relative to the final shot Wednesday isn't whether Bryant is clutch or not, or whether someone else is clutch-er. What matters is shot quality, and if Blake's was as good or better than the one Kobe would have taken had Metta World Peace instead inbounded the ball to him.

Here, I see little room for debate. Assuming the ball even made it to him-- MWP would have had to throw a difficult pass to Bryant over the top of OKC's quick, ball-hawking defense -- it appears Kobe would have caught the ball with only five seconds left and a defender in position to contest. Probably Serge Ibaka on a switch, with Thabo Sefolosha closing fast. He didn't appear to me, as Mike Brown suggested after, "wide open on the backside." Maybe Kobe can create a little space, or has enough time to make a pass out of what almost certainly would have been a tough double team.

It's very difficult to see how either scenario would have produced a higher percentage look than an uncontested corner 3. The idea isn't to get Kobe the ball because he's "supposed" to take the shot, but to get the best shot possible. World Peace's job was to make that happen, and he did. It didn't work out the way the Lakers wanted, but they did get as good a shot as could be hoped.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Kobe Bryant
PTS AST STL MIN
26.4 4.1 1.4 35.6
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 9.4
AssistsJ. Lin 5.3
StealsK. Bryant 1.4
BlocksE. Davis 1.4