Perfect finish for Lakers
January, 17, 2012
By Henry Abbott
I've been complaining that Kobe Bryant is reluctant to hit the open man with the game on the line -- which makes it easy for the defense to know where to focus their efforts: On Kobe! Which is exactly what the Mavericks did Monday night. With the game tied in the closing seconds, they created a defensive set I'd be surprised to see deployed against any other player.
Their most trusted individual defender, Shawn Marion, was glued to Bryant, who had the ball. After a few dribbles, he was joined by Jason Terry too.
Which left the rest of the Mavericks lingering nervously in a zone around the paint, with all eyes on Bryant.
Wide open around the 3-point line were Jason Kapono (a career 44 percent shooter from downtown), Derek Fisher (37 percent) and Pau Gasol, who just won a game with a key 3 a few days ago, which is not something you see very often on an NBA court, especially not intentionally.
Some may argue that the Mavericks' approach shows how much they fear Bryant as a scorer. That's surely part of it. But another part is how little they fear him as a passer -- if they expected him to hit the open man, they simply wouldn't have left all those good shooters open.
My contention is that almost any wide open shooter is a better percentage play than a double-teamed guy. And that's how Bryant played it this time. The short-term result was a Fisher swish and a Laker win. The long-term result, if Bryant keeps passing, will be more balanced defenses that might let Bryant get open now and again, instead of always having to take such tough shots. That would be good for the Lakers.