We touched on it after Sunday's win over the Nuggets at Staples: While aspects of Kobe Bryant's stat line (three-for-17 shooting, 14 points, five turnovers) were hardly Kobe-esque, his influence on the game, particularly over the final 17-ish minutes, was strong.
Kobe led the team with a season-high 12 assists, thriving after the Lakers made a major (and majorly effective) second half adjustment, isolating Bryant on the right block and forcing the Nuggets to make decisions about how they would defend him. Bring a double? Leave the defender isolated?
The Lakers used the set in four of their seven half-court possessions over the final four-plus minutes of the third, then nine times in 17 half-court possessions during the fourth quarter, including five straight trips after Kobe re-entered the game at the 5:50 mark.
To better illustrate how the Lakers changed their attack, Kevin Arnovitz of TrueHoop and ClipperBlog fame assembled this very cool video highlight package breaking down what the Nuggets did against Kobe early, and how he and the Lakers countered late. Andy and I contribute a few ideas... but Kevin does the heavy lifting.
Great stuff, and very revealing:
Thanks again to Kevin for jumping in with Land O' Lakers after a very important game.
A few other thoughts on this topic:
Through the fourth quarter, even when Kobe didn't actually get the ball in the block, more often than not he was set up there. By that point, he'd certainly drawn Denver's attention, helping to open up options on the other side of the court.
The sets were successful enough to force George Karl to stick Bryant with larger defenders like Carmelo Anthony and Kenyon Martin, just to keep Kobe from making hay in his comfort zones. Given L.A.'s length across their lineup, this had obvious drawbacks, particularly after 'Melo fouled out late in the fourth. With Martin still on Kobe, on one trip the Lakers found Lamar Odom isolated down low against Arron Afflalo.
Unlike sets with Kobe isolated high on the wing, getting him on the block encourages more ball and player movement. Given L.A.'s skill and size, they're comfortable working in tight quarters and can create good looks near the bucket. Using Pau Gasol at the elbow often has a similar effect.