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NBA Playoffs: Is Kevin Durant really a Kobe stopper? Or was Kobe the Kobe stopper?

Apr 23, 2010, 2:19 PM EST

Bryant_Durant.jpgKevin Durant is being treated like basketball royalty today — he stepped up like a superstar should. With the game on the line, he asked to cover the other team’s best player. He went mano a mano with Kobe Bryant. That takes stones. He deserves the praise.

And the Thunder won. That is ultimately how we measure success. We see these things as black and white that way.

“It was a matchup that caught me by surprise. I think he did a great job,” Bryant said in his post-game press conference.

But what exactly did Durant do? Thanks to our friends at Synergy I rewatched every Kobe Bryant shot with Durant on him in the fourth. And as it always, things are not black-and-white so much as shades of grey. Durant deserves credit, but Kobe was passive and has hit many of those shots.

Durant didn’t take on Kobe until just more than nine minutes left in the game (Kobe’s first three shots of the fourth were against James Harden, where he was 1 of 3 but had looks he normally drains). What follows is a breakdown of the seven Bryant fourth quarter attempts where Durant was on him.

1. Kobe is isolated on the weakside wing, gets the ball then tries to drive Durant to the left to the middle of the court, the free throw line, then spins back to the elbow for a quick shot. Most defenders are nowhere near this and Kobe gets an unobstructed look, but Durant’s length makes it a shot he can contest. Kobe hits the back rim. Kobe’s shot was long all night, particularly in the fourth.

2. Kobe gets the handoff on the left wing then kind of dribbles until he gets a clear out, makes a couple of more dribbles like he’s going to make a move then goes the quick-release pull-up three. Durant contests and the shot misses. Not a great look, no motion in the Lakers offense, but Kobe has hit those.

3. The Lakers actually got the ball to Pau Gasol on the low block, he goes to the middle and draws three defenders so he kicks out to Fisher in the corner, who hesitated just enough for a defensive recovery. Fisher needs a bailout so he throws to Kobe on the high left wing, who launches a catch-and-shoot three from three feet behind the arc. Back rim again. Not a good shot for that possession again.

4. Just 5:30 and left and Kobe really tries to take him here — and Durant does his best defensive job of the night. From the top of the key Kobe drives left, then quickly comes behind his back to the right — and Durant is right with him, cutting off the lane. So Kobe steps back and goes to more of a power-drive left where once he gets to the baseline 12 feet out he tries a fade away, but Durant is not only there he blocks it. That was great defense from Durant.

5. Next possession and the Lakers offense is stagnant, they can’t get the ball inside with a post pass (it’s amazing how bad the Lakers guards are at that) and nobody creates a shot outside, so it is kicked to Kobe and he goes with another catch-and-shoot long three with Durant contesting, Flat and a miss.

6. The Lakers went away from Kobe for the next four minutes, and are now down four with less than a minute to go. This time after nothing develops for the Lakers on the strong side it becomes a weakside isolation for Kobe, again a couple steps beyond the arc. He takes one hard step to get Durant to step back then goes for the pull-up three. Contested and back rim.

7. Westbrook misses and Kobe gets the rebound and just races in transition. Durant is back and tries to pick him up a the free throw line but Kobe is going too fast with a full head of steam, gets by and lays it in, the block is just late.

So what did Durant do? He has quick enough feet to take away easy driving angles, and the Lakers not once came out and set a high pick for Kobe to come off of so he could get an angle. It was isolations. Durant’s length meant he could at least get a hand up on all these shots, sometimes making Kobe adjust. Durant did as well as could be done on Kobe late game.

But Kobe has also hit some of those shots before, we’ve all seen him drain those long threes. But he (and all the Lakers) were passive, settling for jumpers. It’s not good offense, but it works often enough for them. The Thunder would rather have the Lakers shooting those jumpers rather than getting the ball inside. But be careful what you wish for, the Lakers can hit those shots. It will be interesting to see if they do next game.

  1. Jim Sanders - Apr 23, 2010 at 4:15 PM

    Kobe needs to play 48mins. Not this turn on-turn off performance.The Lakers are in the play offs.Play like the King.

  2. Lol - Apr 23, 2010 at 4:56 PM

    Kurt is a lakers fan. It shows.

  3. Lol - Apr 23, 2010 at 4:56 PM

    Kurt is a lakers fan. It shows.

  4. Brian - Apr 23, 2010 at 5:13 PM

    This game reminds me of the playoff series against the Pistons when Shaq was still around. Kobe just wasn’t “creating”. 0 free throw attempts in this game? That’s insane. At one point in the game, I thought it was a better thing to do to just give the ball to Gasol and let him post up and pass the ball back out to create opportunities. As always, a lot of times I absolutely don’t agree with Kobe’s shot selection.

  5. Just Maybe - Apr 23, 2010 at 5:36 PM

    Kobe was distracted….he was looking in the stands for his next rape victim.

  6. EyeNeverSayNo - Apr 23, 2010 at 5:39 PM

    Bottom line: Kobe got embarassingly sucked into a one-on-one battle with Durant and like a foolish rookie, Kobe kept playing into their hands, shooting his team right out of the game. What a head game they played on Kobe, playing right to his towering ego, getting him to throw the game away while trying to show the young scoring champ Durant a thing or two. It didn’t work and it was not smart basketball by Bryant or Jackson.

  7. Randall from OklaCity - Apr 23, 2010 at 5:51 PM

    Kobe ain’t MJ

  8. Bizzle - Apr 23, 2010 at 5:51 PM

    You want Kobe to start dancing in the middle of a game or d you mean not to shake hands after the series?
    Or do you mean to sit out wheneve he has a tiny little injury?

  9. Randall from OklaCity - Apr 23, 2010 at 5:54 PM

    Kobe couldn’t get inside because Krstic, Collison, Sefalosha, Ibaka RULES THE PAINT

  10. Tyson - Apr 23, 2010 at 5:55 PM

    The lakers were not playing hard for the sake of foul trouble. The thunder are not a very long team and when the lakers are settling for shooting, it is almost impossible to to win a game this way.
    Of course, Kevin Durant got to the foul line with most of the referee’s doing exactly as he planned, sending him there. Not one laker got to the foul line besides gasol and bynum. When we saw what were clear fouls, the thunder hooted and hollered as though they weren’t getting the correct calls. The lakers, surprisingly, kept their composure, even whent he fouls that were called were in the thunders favor.
    Then the commissioner went out and drew the line in the sand to say that referee’s are doing the best job that they can. If they can review whether a shot was a 2 or a 3, they can review if a player was fouled or not. It would slow the game down, but, it would be the correct call.

  11. LMAO in LA - Apr 23, 2010 at 6:28 PM

    Blah, blah, blah, blah. I don’t care how it happened or why it happened I’m just glad it did – it was worth it to see Kobe’s frustration missed shot after missed shot! Im rooting for ANY team playing against the Lakers and I live in LA. Roll Thunder ROLL!

  12. Brian - Apr 23, 2010 at 7:26 PM

    Think about this. You’re Kobe, playing in a game. You know you’re not hot today. You have the option of 1) try to facilitate and create and let the other guys score more, or 2) keep throwing long shots hoping to get yourself into rhythm. What would you have done?
    If you choose to keep shooting because you feel that you’re Kobe and can’t lose face, that’s effectively nothing better than Shaq being fat. Either you’re selfish or you’re outta shape, the result is the same.
    I live in LA too….

  13. tbs - Apr 23, 2010 at 7:35 PM

    In other words, the Lakers couldn’t execute their offense, threw it to Kobe with the clock winding down and asked him to bail them out under duress. Because the shots didn’t go down, Durant gets credit for great defense and Kobe is villified.

  14. YO - Apr 23, 2010 at 7:54 PM

    Obviously ur not from LA so go back to the MW u Laka Hata
    Blah, blah, blah, blah. I don’t care how it happened or why it happened I’m just glad it did – it was worth it to see Kobe’s frustration missed shot after missed shot! Im rooting for ANY team playing against the Lakers and I live in LA. Roll Thunder ROLL!

  15. ocgunslinger - Apr 23, 2010 at 8:49 PM

    Watch out for what you wish for……
    Lakers in 5

  16. Brian - Apr 23, 2010 at 9:44 PM

    Absolutely. Lakers in 5.

  17. Scott Gibson - Apr 24, 2010 at 12:03 AM

    Forget all replys… it’s called gamesmanship and Kobe said it best as quoted at the beginning of the article:
    “It was a matchup that caught me by surprise. I think he did a great job,” Bryant said in his post-game press conference.

  18. chris - Apr 24, 2010 at 1:57 AM

    “4. Just 5:30 and left and Kobe really tries to take him here — and Durant does his best defensive job of the night. From the top of the key Kobe drives left, then quickly comes behind his back to the right — and Durant is right with him, cutting off the lane. So Kobe steps back and goes to more of a power-drive left where once he gets to the baseline 12 feet out he tries a fade away, but Durant is not only there he blocks it. That was great defense from Durant.”…………
    Except that it was also a very clear foul. In replay review, it’s absolutely clear that Durant squarely hit his shooting hand. Amazingly….. it wasn’t called.

  19. RANDY - Apr 25, 2010 at 8:51 AM

    the lakers will win the series,the writing is on the wall,the lakers are playing with them,it all about keeping the interest in the game. Watching from Barbados.

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