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It’s not always about Kobe, Lakers defense keys win over Thunder

Feb 27, 2011, 7:20 PM EDT

Kobe Bryant, Thabo Sefolosha

The end of the Lakers win over Oklahoma City was the latest Rorschach test for whether or not you think Kobe Bryant is a clutch player.

Kobe scored seven of the Lakers final 10 points (all the others were Pau Gasol free throws) and he pushed the Lakers to a 90-87 win on the road. But he shot just 2-of-6 late in the game, had a key turnover and took over the Laker offense as they abandoned the triangle for a lot of Kobe trying to do it all.

So is Kobe clutch? That misses the point.

The Lakers beat the Thunder again because they cranked up the defense and held the Thunder to 31 points in the second half. Total. The Thunder shot 44.7 percent for the game.

That’s really what it all about for the Lakers. Whether they run the triangle and Pau Gasol is hitting cutters with passes out of the high post, or if Kobe is just going rogue and launching contested bombs, the Lakers are going to score.

The question is are they focused enough to stop you from scoring? They looked old and tired at the end of their Grammy road trip, but since getting a few days off All-Star weekend to rest their old legs the Lakers are 4-0. And defending well.

This game really tells us little about what would happen if these two teams hook up again in the playoffs because we don’t know what the Thunder will look like with Kendrick Perkins in the paint. He will certainly make life harder for Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, the Lakers bigs will dominate the game as they tend to against when these teams meet up.

But will that matter if the Lakers can hold Kevin Durant to 21 points on 8-of-20 shooting? That is why you see Russell Westbrook try to take over more against the Lakers, because L.A. is one of the few teams that can make it very hard on Durant (and you see him miss good looks at game winners). And until the Thunder can do something about that this series will continue to be dominated by the Lakers.

  1. borderline1988 - Feb 27, 2011 at 9:51 PM

    It’s not the fact that Kobe went 2/6 (or 1/4) at the end of the game. It’s the shots he took. Stupid, contested shots, sometimes early in the clock.
    He chucked up two contested 3-pointers in the dying minutes of the game. If he were any other player in the league, he would have been benched.

    Cannot believe how anyone can even argue whether he was ‘clutch’ in this game. He was a total disaster. The Lakers should have won by 10, but it came down to the last possession because Kobe hijacked the offense.
    He was bailed out by the Lakers unbelievable interior defense (Ron Artest had a key steal as well). This game was about how well Artest and Bynum played, but mostly about Lamar Odom. Whenever Odom had the ball, good things happened.
    The Lakers defense is really remarkable when playing healthy and motivated. It’s what allows them to grind out wins at the end of games. It’s a championship defense, and I really think that if Bynum stays healthy, the Lakers should be the clear favourite to win it all again

  2. loungefly74 - Feb 27, 2011 at 10:09 PM

    i watched the game too. yes, kobe did take some bad shots but did hit some key ones as well. and it’s okay for kobe not needing to come thru for the lakers each game…that’s why you get a strong supporting cast. lakers would have won by 6-8 if odom hits hits the FT’s…i like how kobe threw a towel at odom’s face when they were on the bench…kobe is their leader and when they win, life is good regardless if by 1 point or 10 points.

  3. borderline1988 - Feb 27, 2011 at 10:17 PM

    Let me also point out Kobe’s stat line:
    8/22 FG (36%), 1/6 3PT, 7 assists, 2 rebounds, 4 turnovers, didn’t shoot a free throw.
    The rest of the team?
    29/54 FG (54%), 3/9 3PT

    Bynum and Gasol together had exactly double as many points as Kobe did, although they took 1 fewer shots combined.
    I know this is just one game and it’s a bit dramatic of me to go all nuts on Kobe for one weak game. But it just pissed me off that he kept shooting.

    • loungefly74 - Feb 28, 2011 at 8:15 AM

      there is a caste system in the NBA. kobe, along with durant, james, wade, melo, dirk, etc…have a green light to shoot the entire game. BUT, yes, i agree, there are times were he needs to defer the shot attempts to a teammate getting better looks. and yeah, his bad shots are magnified when they lose…but all is forgiven when they win.

  4. craigw24 - Feb 28, 2011 at 10:28 AM

    Kurt,
    You are falling for the ‘talking head’ definition of clutch. Somehow a person has to be bringing it in the last 30sec (2 min, etc.) of the game to determine whether or not they are clutch. This goes along with looking at that stats and trying to determine how a player played. Stats should only be used to augment a discussion, not drive it.

    You have to actually watch a game to determine clutch. Does a player come through when the team is on life support and needs a boost – either offensively or defensively. This can happen throughout a game. Some players can read the flow of a game, but most cannot. Clutch players must first be able to read the flow of the game, then they must be able to change their game to provide what the team needs. This is a rare talent. LBJ does not have it yet, but both Kobe and Dwyane do have it. This is one reason people are so frustrated with how Heat games are played.

    Please get off the comical ‘finishing clutch’ bandwagon.

    • Kurt Helin - Feb 28, 2011 at 1:53 PM

      Craigw24, I think you miss the point of my Kobe clutch thoughts. What someone says about Kobe in the clutch in this game says more about how the person views Kobe than anything else — there was enough here to make you say Kobe was clutch or was not clutch.

      I have argued before on this blog the real problem is trying to define clutch. The point being that a great second quarter of a Game 5 playoff series can be clutch, so can a game-winning shot. Kobe breaks out of the offense and misses a higher-than-normal percentage of shots near the end of close games, but that does not define clutch to me.

  5. dajohn524 - Feb 28, 2011 at 12:04 PM

    “So is Kobe cutch? That misses the point.” That sentence is so not clutch. Whoever typed it ignored Spell Czech like Kobe ignored open players. (I’m expecting an email saying an editor inserted that sentence, and that Helin had nothing to do with it.) Hint for future times of ignoring spell check – don’t make obvious errors in a one line paragraph.

    • Kurt Helin - Feb 28, 2011 at 1:50 PM

      The error was all mine. It’s fixed now.

      • loungefly74 - Feb 28, 2011 at 2:05 PM

        kurt…no biggie. we knew what you meant. not all of us are anal retentive…(ha! i think of phil hartman’s SNL skit!)…anyway. all good.

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