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NBA finals, Lakers Celtics Game 4: Can the Celtics keep Kobe Bryant from beating them?

Jun 10, 2010, 12:40 PM EDT

kobe_garnett.jpgKobe Bryant has not had a great NBA finals. Sure, he put up 30 points in Game 1 and 29 in Game 3, but he is shooting just 39.4 percent. He is not efficient. He got 29 points last game, but it took him 29 shots to get that.

Boston’s defense is giving Kobe problems.

That shouldn’t be a surprise, the Celtics defensive strategy has long been to take Kobe out of the game offensively, to get the ball out of his hands. (Pau Gasol sometimes gets the same treatment, although Kevin Garnett has been less effective in that matchup). The Celtics efforts on Kobe have continued this series.

“They are really getting up underneath him on his shot, so he is not getting a clear lift on his shot,” Phil Jackson said after Game 3. “It keeps him from turning his body, he can’t get the right turn and they are doing a good job.”

Kobe’s a scorer. He doesn’t see it that way. But he also realizes that if two men stick to him, other guys are open.

“I wouldn’t say they are defending me any differently, I would say we are a better team,” Bryant said. “That enables me to continue to be aggressive, and put pressure on defenses. I made shots (in Game 3) in stretches, missed shots in stretches, a lot of them were tough shots with three seconds on the clock. But I think we’re just a better team.”

The Lakers have started to use Kobe as a decoy more — such as the 1-2 pick-and-roll he ran with Derek Fisher at the end of Game 3. Fisher got open looks — ones on the move that the Celtics will live with him shooting, but open looks — because when Kobe sets the screen nobody leaves him. There is no showing out by Kobe’s man, he stays put. That allowed Fisher to turn the corner and penetrate.

Look for the Lakers to keep using Kobe in that way. To use him to spread the defense out, or to create lanes for others. Because the Celtics are not going to stop bodying him, sticking with him. They are not going to give him a chance to do to them what he did to Phoenix in Game 6 of that series. They are going to make another Laker beat them.

Kobe is betting that, compared to two years ago, the Lakers are a better team.

  1. Mike - Jun 10, 2010 at 2:45 PM

    This is why Kobe has matured so much in the last few years and definately the BEST in the league. (LeFake James couldn’t carry Kobe’s jock strap). A few years ago, Kobe would still try to drive the lane or shoot over 3 defenders. Now…he knows how to spread the oppositions defense, pass/assist, decoy, and yet..still shoot the most remarkable shots the league has seen.
    I will give Boston one more win in the garden…but this is over in six with Lakers on top. Sorry Pierce (you jackass)a prophet you are not…and a basketball player you are not…and a decent human you are definately NOT.

  2. nick - Jun 10, 2010 at 3:17 PM

    Kobe has not matured in the past few years. He still took 29 shots, remember. Many of them were difficult, off-balance, outside jump shots that shouldnt ever be taken. As Kurt said, the Celtics are never going to leave him. If that’s true, he should be used as a decoy, and take maybe 15 shots. The Lakers have the best team in the NBA by far, but the guards have to cycle the offense through the post players. Kobe, FIsher and Artest will get hot at different points in the game, but the consistent playmakers that will stretch defenses and force open looks are Gasol and Bynum.
    ALthough i do agree with you about pierce – he’s really the most overrated player in the league. He had an incredible playoff run back in 2008, but has never proven himself as an elite player at any other time in his career. Everyone is waiting for him to “break out” offensively – I dont expect him to b/c on average, he’s a 18 PPG player, but against a good defensive team, he can score 10-12 points, but thats it.
    Pierce is also the biggest offensive flopper the game has ever seen. Players like Manu, Verajao, etc. take a lot of flack for flopping on the defensive end, but no one talks about it on the offensive end. Every time Pierce gets stripped or drives to the basket, he screams like he’s been shot and dives to the floor.

  3. mjkbfan - Jun 10, 2010 at 4:52 PM

    Having grown up outside of Chitown and spending the last few years in LA, I am a big MJ, PJ, and Kobe fan. My first reaction to your reply was defensive….thinking Kobe has surely matured over the last few years. Then I checked his stats. Actually, statistically speaking, you’re correct. His ability to manage the game has improved tremendously, but is that from experience & supporting cast, or maturity? I think ‘all of the above’. At the end of the day, he is undeniably one of the greatest athletes the NBA has ever seen, but perhaps all this recent maturity-hype is just that……hype. Regardless, I’m a fan.

  4. The Gunga Zen - Jun 10, 2010 at 5:28 PM

    Actually if you analyze the play-making ability of some of the greatest players of all time, there is one key factor that is inherent in all of them. The ability to adjust game to game against new defensive schemes,Double/Triple teams etc. Kobe,time and again (With age comes basketball wisdom)has shown this innate ability to adapt quarter to quarter in the biggest games played. I have been watching the Lakers with reverent joy since 1980, and what I can state emphatically is that this team is one of the most dominating Basketball team, Decade to Decade more than any other NBA team.
    Lakers in Six

  5. mjkbfan - Jun 10, 2010 at 6:15 PM

    Plus, Kobe and the many greats before him all have another common quality. They all seem to have the greatest will to win. It’s not that the rest of the team isn’t putting in a good effort. It’s that Kobe and those few select others somehow manage to will themselves to play at an energy and intelligence level above everyone else when it matters most. This year’s NBA Finals has provided me an awesome opportunity to help my son understand the many different aspects of a true champion. He’s a QB, but the individual qualities are applicable across all team sports…..and life in general. For example, when KG sprinted back on fastbreaks while the rest of his team drug behind — mark of a champion….as Van Gundy noticed and pointed out.

  6. Hackpiper - Jun 10, 2010 at 6:20 PM

    “Sorry Pierce (you jackass)a prophet you are not…and a basketball player you are not…and a decent human you are definately NOT.”

    Well…
    * The prophecy thing was misreported…and the Laker moonies have gone to town with it of course. In here for instance.
    * Not a basketball player? Riggghhhht……
    * Not a “decent human being”? Methinks you are revealing more about yourself than Paul Pierce. Give it a rest, eh?
    Pierce is prone to dramatics. But Judging by what I’ve seen, he’s just like a lot of players on the Lakers.
    Kobe is indisputably the best right now. I’ll give you that.

  7. [a] proxy - Jun 10, 2010 at 7:18 PM

    Release the BLACK MAMBA!

  8. Cassie - Jun 10, 2010 at 7:44 PM

    Gunga:
    To whom much is given much is expected. And if we are honest, we would agree that Kobe has risen and continues to rise to the occassion. I ackownledge that he is not perfect. Yes Kobe took 29 shoots in game 3, and yes some were ill advised, but that does not prove he has not matured. The fact is his skill and ability on the court requires him to make quick decisions way more often than other players. He makes the decisions that seems best at the point in time, that is all we can ask from a mature human being. To make the best decison he thinks possible. It seems like folks are expecting perfection, but when you think about it, as ball players go, he is DARN NEAR PERFECT. One Celtics fan put is best, “it is just jealousy”.

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