For all the talk on this site about building the right way, getting players that fit your system and the like, the hardest part of building a championship team is getting at least one transcendent player.
You need The Man. MJ. Shaq. Detroit was the exception, but for the most part you need the unstoppable force and team leader. And those guys donâ€™t grow on trees. Duncan. LeBron. Garnett.
And Kobe. Last night was one of a few games recently where he put the team on his back and won a game. When he had to do that for 82 games the last couple of years, the burden was too much. But this year, when he can pick those spots, you see how amazing he is.
Here are some thoughts from commenter 81Wittness, who was at the game in ARCO:
Some notes from the game, but first, what did I say yesterday?
“About the Kings: The Lakers can dominate if they take the ball to the cup early and consistently. While the Kings perimeter defense is good, their interior defense is terrible. I do not give much credit to Miller and Moore. They also get into foul trouble easily. I know Kobe has recently tried to get his teammates involved, but it would be nice for him to get to the rack early and often.”
Lakers won tonight because Kobe et al. took the ball to the rack with a serious mission in the 4th. Had they done it the hole game instead of these namby, pamby, passes, maybe they would have blown them out. More:
“Sometimes Artest will bring the ball up. Luke, Sasha, and Kobe need to give up space and let him shoot. This was how he destroyed the Kings under Musselman. However, do not let him take you to the interior as he will out-muscle most of the Lakers and draw a foul. Same thing goes for Salmons. He has been struggling from outside lately.”
Saw Artest thrown some clunkers down the stretch. As soon as he dribbled down the court and put them up, everyone knew it was a brick. Salmons played well, but did it on mostly interior plays. Terrible job by the machine, Kobe, and anybody else guarding him.
About the crowd:
It was 3:2 Kings vs. Lakers. Lots of Lakers fans in the crowd. I loved hearing the echo of Luke in the first. Also, when Martin shot up the airball, lots of airball from the crowd. Lots of chants of MVP down the stretch. This #24 might be an okay player.
My two cents on the game: The Lakers in the second half of the fourth quarter got back to doing what made them so impressive at the start of the year. They played aggressive pressure defense. Then they grabbed the rebound and ran, getting transition buckets or getting shots off before the defense really got set.
Hereâ€™s a little breakdown to show you what I mean â€” with just more than six minutes left the Lakers started their run. (And if Lawlerâ€™s Law were actually a law, the Lakers have just lost.)
6:14, 100-93 Kings. Kobe isolated on the wing against Salmons, and Salmons is having a nice season that is asking too much. Kobe blows past him, there is no rotation help and Salmons fouls. Kobe hits both.
5:56, 100-95 Kings. Beno does his best Curly Neal and never gives up the dribble â€” he takes the inbounds, comes up the court, watches the other Kings go through the offense for 10 seconds, decides he should just take Fisher and drives past him into the lane. Both Gasol and Odom collapse, forcing Beno to alter his shot then Gasol grabs the rebound on the miss.
This is the one time the Lakers donâ€™t run off a miss, and look at the result. After going through a little two-man game between Kobe and Gasol that nets nothing promising, Kobe gets his isolation and goes to one of his standard moves â€” he swings the ball through and tries to draw the foul on a reaching opponent. Except this time he loses the handle out of bounds. Ah, but Kobe can sell it â€”- he says Artest touched it and the refs agree. Come on, itâ€™s not like Kobe has a bum finger on one hand and would just lose control of the ball. On the inbounds the Lakers have little time so itâ€™s a quick long three by Kobe that misses.
There are times the Kingâ€™s offense just seems to have no focal point or direction. Like this possession, where the Kings run through some isolations and half-hearted picks until they just clear out for Artest (with Odom on him) and we get the 18-foot contested jumper that misses.
Kobe gets the rebound and the best way to run a break is to have the rebounder bring it up, so thatâ€™s what Kobe does. He blows by everyone except Artest, who fouls in the act. Kobe hits both free throws.
4:53, 100-97 Kings. Salmons gets the ball in the high post with Luke on him, thinks to himself â€œif I canâ€™t get by Luke I shouldnâ€™t be in the league,â€ then proceeds to blow by Luke. Gasol rotates over and forces him to alter his layup, and the result is a miss.
Quick outlet pass and Kobe brings the ball up in transition but doesnâ€™t have numbers so he stops on the wing. Gasol, running down the court, looks like he is going to set the â€œdragâ€ high pick early in the clock, but slips it as Miller and Artest try to trap Kobe. What have we said about how well these Lakers can pass? Kobe splits the double with a pass to a wide-open Gasol who goes in for a little runner hook shot. Good.
4:28, 100-99 Kings. Sacramento wastes no time trying to isolate Artest with Odom on him. Artest starts on the wing, drives baseline, draws a nice little crowd of defenders, decides to shoot anyway and misses.
In the rush down court Kevin Martin (not Artest) picks up Kobe. He canâ€™t cover Kobe in isolation. The result is a foul, two free throws and more points.
Time out Kings.
4:06 101-100 Lakers. The Kings again go through their set where Miller gets the ball out sort of high, tries to back in on Gasol and eventually picks up his dribble, looking to hand off to Martin. Except that Kobe plays good denial defense and has Martin blanketed. Miller decides to go with the up-and-under on Gasol from 8 feet out. Letâ€™s just say thatâ€™s not Millerâ€™s game.
Kobe with the rebound, and what did we say about rebounding and leading the break? Kobe goes down, puts on the crazy spin move at the free throw line, gets the layup. Damn he makes that look easy.
3:28, 103-100 Lakers. Beno has the ball and Artest has to come out past the three-point line to get it. Odom wisely plays a step back daring Artest to shoot the three. Artest like a dare, he takes the shot. No good.
Itâ€™s the Kobe show, he brings the ball up and the rest of the guys might as well go get something to drink because Kobe is not passing. He drives into the heart of the Kings defense. He is fouled in the act. Two shots. The crowd shots M-V-P while Kobe is at the line. Ziller throws up a little in his mouth.
3:13, 105-100 Lakers. The Kings want to get Artest the ball in a good spot, but Odomâ€™s length is bothering Artest. So the ball swings out top and they try to get it to Martin off a screen, but Kobe is everywhere denying the pass. Ultimately Mikki Moore has to create his own shot, and he canâ€™t do it before the shot clock expires.
The Lakers bring the ball up but just over half court, before the defense is set, Fisher sees Odom wide open in the corner. Odom drives but Moore makes a nice rotation to pick up the charge.
Kevin Martin gets a down-screen from Brad Miller and curls around at the free throw line where Beno feds him the ball. But Fisher slides down and knocks the ball out of Martinâ€™s hands.
Fisher launches the long bounce outlet to Kobe, who grabs it for the 360-spinning dunk.
Time out Kings but the game is done. And it was pressure defense and running that get the Lakers the win.
UPDATE: Check out Sactown Royalty, where Ziller bribed ESPN’s David Thorpe with a free dinner (I’m guessing) to comment on the fourth quarter from last night.
Martin had 16 shots in 3 quarters, with just one in the 4th. Only 2 touches overall. I wonder if the Kings would have scored just 18 fourth quarter points if Martin was just as central to their attack as Kobe was to the Lakers. And I also wonder if Kobe would have been so effective as a scorer in the 4th if he had to chase Martin around screens and hand-offs and backdoor cuts the entire quarter. We don’t know if Martin can carry this team over the Lakers in crunch time. I’d like to find out. I’m sure Miller would love lots of 4th quarter touches.
Kobe was on Martin for a reason – Phil Jackson wanted the Kings to go to Artest. Had Artest started making shots, I’d guess Kobe would have switched onto him. The Kings did exactly what the Lakers’ hoped they would do.