Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Where Kobe Bryant's shooting changed Game 1
To say Kobe Bryant dominated the shooting for the Lakers over the second half of Monday's Game 1 loss is an exercise in understatement.
Overall, Bryant launched 17 shots, 12 more than his closest teammate over the final 24 minutes. By my count, while on the floor in the second half (17:57 of PT) he outshot the other four guys on the floor 17-11 (12 if you count a putback attempt from Ron Artest off a Bryant miss). Moreover, as the game wore on, Bryant's looks grew increasingly iso-driven, as opposed to earlier in the game when he ran more frequently off the ball.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Kobe took an awful lot of jump shots in the second half Monday night, and it pulled L.A.'s offense out to the perimeter with him.
"It had nothing to do with me. It had nothing to do with me. I've had games where I shot the ball 30 times, and Pau's had big offensive games those games, you know? I'm going to do what I do," he said. "I think the second unit, and that crew, we've got to make a conscious effort to get the ball into Pau, get the ball into Andrew. But it's got nothing to do with me. I've had games where I shot the ball 10 times and Pau and Andrew didn't contribute that much. I've had games where I shot the ball 30 times and they had big games. It had nothing to do with my shots."
Of course it did. For it to be otherwise would be impossible.
The point isn't blame Kobe for the loss -- there's more than enough responsibility to spread around, with Bryant well down the list -- or rehash arguments about whether Kobe is a ballhog. He's not, at least in the same way as that black hole you play with down at the rec. He correctly noted how many of his jumpers were shots that, for him, are "easy." Relatively high percentage shots, like quick jumpers over a smaller Jason Terry, or popping off the elbow, then using his body and feet to create space against Corey Brewer, for example. Others -- a couple isolations against Shawn Marion and Jason Kidd come to mind -- were tougher, but Kobe forcing shots from time to time is, frankly, expected, built into the expectations of a Lakers game ahead of time.
Watching the third and fourth quarters again this morning, it wasn't a matter of Kobe grabbing a board, rushing up the floor, and chucking up a long jumper early in the clock. In a vacuum, many of his choices were perfectly fine (it was fun, actually, to watch him use the same footwork he walked through in warmups to create space and produce looks during the game). Put together, though, they were part of a larger transformation of the Lakers' offense. Each of Kobe's 17 shots in the second half were jumpers, from mid-to long range. Not one look at the rim, and he didn't earn a single free throw. Given the disparity in shot totals, it's no surprise the Lakers' offense drifted heavily to the perimeter in the second half.
Via ESPN Stats and Information, L.A. attempted 25 of their 42 field goals from inside 10 feet (59.5 percent). In the second, that figure dropped to 15 of 42 (35.7 percent). Over the course of the game, the Lakers shot 50 percent from inside 10 feet. The disparity helps explain why the Lakers were a better offensive team in the first half, shooting 53 points- 49 if you want to remove the four cheap points in the final .7 of the second quarter- on 47.6 percent from the floor vs. 41 points and 38 percent. This despite Kobe shooting a better percentage in the final two periods (9-of-17) than the first two (5-of-12).
I didn't like Kobe's answer to my question for a few reasons, starting with how he seemed to absolve himself of any influence on the second half offense, and also with how Bryant appeared to toss the second unit under the bus (he was correct, but the pot-and-kettle context of the line distracted from the point). But there's not necessarily a huge link between what Bryant says at the podium and how he plays the next game on the floor, anyway. Game 2 will likely look much different than Game 1, I have no doubt. With Kobe, it's never simply about shot totals -- yes, he had too many relative to his teammates -- but where and how the shots come, and the way touches are spread around the rest of the team (even if the shot ultimately goes to Bryant anyway).
Monday night, because because Bryant so heavily outshot his teammates and spent most of his time on the perimeter, he dragged the team's offense out there with him. It's not a place the Lakers want to live.