Thoughts from Game One

Kurt —  April 23, 2007

There’s a reason that Kobe has long struck me as the sort of character seen in Greek mythology or classic novels — his greatest strength is also the cause of his undoing.

He could not be Kobe without his supreme self-confidence, without his unshakable belief that the next shot is going to fall regardless of if he made the last one, regardless of where he is on the court or how many people are defending him.

Laker fans lamented Kobe’s shot selections and deep threes in the fourth quarter, but he was taking similar shots earlier in the game. In the first half those shots fell, so nobody questions it; in the second half they didn’t. But you have to know Kobe won’t stop taking them.

In the first half, the Suns went with a soft double on Kobe, I’m not sure anyone had really done that against him since Toronto last year. It let Kobe get into a rhythm early. In the second half when Kobe first started to go cold he was still single-covered, he was just missing the shots he hit earlier. But his confidence never wavered and he kept shooting, trying to take over the game as the Laker lead faded. And as he pushed harder to take over, the Lakers got farther away from the game plan that got them the lead in the first place.

Then, as tends to happen, the complete “Kobe heat check” offense came when he felt he had to do it for the Lakers to win. After Kobe forced a few shots early in the fourth quarter Phil sat him for a couple minutes. When he came back in on his first play Kobe broke out of the offense, drew defenders and hit Odom with a pass under the basked, Odom missed (and missed the put back). Next trip down when the double came he passed inside to Kwame, who passed back out and the ball worked around to Odom in the corner, he proceeded to drive the lane and lose the ball.

After that Kobe’s unshakable belief that he could do it alone seemed to take over and that meant him taking forced shots even though the Suns had adjusted and were bringing the double team.

As numerous commenters here said at the time, in the second half in general and the fourth quarter specifically the Lakers got away from exploiting mismatches, like setting up Odom in the post. Or Walton. Or whoever Marion was covering, because going right at him was when they had their best success.

Kobe needs to recognize this and set up his teammates better, no matter how unshakable his confidence. That is how the Lakers can win the next game.

Some other thoughts:

• Kwame Brown was a +8 for the game, the only Laker playing major minutes who was a positive for the game. He was +14 in the first half. It speaks volumes about what he means to the Lakers defense, and how much not having him at 100% hurts this team.

• Defensively that was a solid game by the Lakers, the Suns finished with an offensive ratting of 103.3, 7 points below their season average. In the first half in particular, the Lakers make the Suns a midrange shooting team, and it worked.

• I didn’t put in a post until the day of the game how much Barbosa concerned me. Probably should have gotten to that sooner. He comes off the bench often matched up on a Laker sub like Smush or Sasha. That was a bad combo for the Lakers.

• The Lakers shot 19% in the fourth quarter. Kobe was 1 of 10 in the fourth quarter.

• Things I never thought I’d type: I’m pretty sick of the Pussycat Dolls.

• It seemed like the second half was at a much faster pace, but the Suns only had one more possession than they did in the first (46 to 45).

• The Suns are like Brazil in soccer, everybody’s second favorite team because of the style of play.