Around the World (Wide Web): Kobe Returns, Hits Another Game Winner

Phillip Barnett —  February 24, 2010

It sure didn’t take long for Kobe to get back into the swing of things. A 32-7-6 line and a game winning three-pointer in his return after missing five games was impressively seamless – however, the fact that Bryant had to bail the Lakers out for the fifth time this season was much less impressive.

The Lakers came out playing great basketball, outscoring the Grizzlies 27-16 after the first quarter, forcing six turnovers (five steals) and only committing two themselves. Things turned from there, with the Grizzlies shortening that 11-point lead to just five by the half, and taking a five point lead of their own going into the fourth quarter. It definitely wasn’t pretty, but the Lakers will definitely take the win, keeping pace with Cleveland for the league’s best record (the Lakers are still a half-game back in overall standings going into tonight’s game with Cleveland standing pat).

For those of you who missed the game, Basket Blog has a running diary of the game against Memphis, highlighting all of the big plays and adding some analysis by quarter.

Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register had a good column on how Kobe looked in his return to game action.

“Kobe Bryant produced another ending to remember.

“Just don’t forget how Bryant looked at the beginning.

“That was magical in a more unique way. The word “pure” describes Bryant’s stroke on that winning shot Tuesday night, but it better speaks to the look in his eyes as he took the basketball court for the first time after 18 days away.

“On first glance the eyes were might’ve looked dead to the casual observer because they were so steady. Bryant walked without emotion from the bench to the scorer’s table to get rosin for his hands. Teammate Josh Powell whispered that last motivation in Bryant’s right ear right before tip-off – which only happens every single game – yet Bryant listened as intently as if it were the final play call.

“And soon enough, Bryant was talking with the same focus. He set a season-high in communication in team defense, triggering extraordinary results…”

Also, in SLAMonline’s recap of all games last night, they touched on the Lakers-Grizzlies game and, of course, Kobe’s return:

While this was going on, in La-la-land, Kobe was doing what he does coming back from an ankle injury to drop 32 of his team’s 99 points, shooting 13-19 from the floor, adding seven rebounds and six assists and hitting the game-tying three-pointer then following that up with the game-winning dagger three to give the Lakers the 99-98 victory. It’s funny how tough of a time the Lakers have with Memphis. Had OJ Mayo made a pair of free throws, the Lakers would have trailed by two possessions, but you know, give Kobe room to win and more often than not, he’s going to.

How many game winners is this? Five? I think something like that. So crazy. It’s even crazier when, I swoon over the 32/7/6 line from Kobe and then go over and check LeBron’s numbers for the season. They are different players with different skill sets and different roles on their teams and I’m still picking Kobe to win the game for me, but I cannot wrap my head around just how good LeBron is on a nightly basis.

Mark Medina of the Lakers Blog at the Los Angeles Times has a great read on Kobe’s late game heroics versus the team’s collective late game collapses and Basket Blog has video of post game interviews with Phil Jackson and Pau Gasol. Andy Kamenetzky at Land O’ Lakers has a good recap of the game that chronicles the Lakers’ sloppy play after the first quarter.

“After a first frame holding the Grizzlies to a sweet 16, L.A. allowed their hosts to double it over the second quarter, then score 33 during the third. That strong defense consistently witnessed during Bryant’s ankle-sprained absence? Non-existent. Ditto the smart play. The Lakers turned the ball over nine times in the third quarter alone and 17 times in all. Well above the team’s average, and even more eye-popping, this mess’ foundation was a first quarter with just two gaffes.

“Everything went haywire, and it wasn’t a matter of Memphis forcing Laker mistakes. They just played badly.

“You can’t defend turnovers,” said PJ after the game. “They’re eventually going to catch up with you. We created our own mismatch in that (third) quarter.”

“That lack of concentration also surfaced at the stripe. After missing just twice in nineteen tries over 36 minutes, veterans became unglued. Pau, 82 percent on the season, missed three attempts during the final frame and Derek Fisher, an 85 percent guy, missed a pair. Inexcusable, and for El Spaniard, additional proof playing in Memphis messes with him. No shot was too big a “bunny” for Gasol this evening.”

3 Shades of Blue has a recap of last night’s game from the Memphis perspective, where Chip Crain declares Kobe as the NBA’s best player.

“Tuesday night began like so many Grizzlies games have begun recently with the team down double digits early. Just like the Miami and New Jersey games the Grizzlies staged a furious comeback to retake the lead late in the game. However this time the Grizzlies couldn’t finish the game nor even make it to overtime. This time the people of Memphis were treated to a show by Kobe Bryant who showed why he is the best player in the game today when the game is on the line.

“Sorry LeBron fans but it is true. Give me LeBron for 3 1/2 quarters but when the game is on the line I want Kobe taking the big shots. Kobe scored the Lakers final nine points to bring the defending World Champions back from certain defeat topped off with a three point shot with the clock running out that was contested and two feet at least behind the three point line.”

Lastly, I leave you with the video of Kobe’s game winner. Phil drew up a gorgeous play, the double-screen, giving Kobe room to hide and shoot behind Gasol using Lamar and Fisher as decoys. The ball reversal created misdirection, making the Grizzlies players make decisions – exactly what you want to do if you have one shot.

-Phillip

Phillip Barnett

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34 responses to Around the World (Wide Web): Kobe Returns, Hits Another Game Winner

  1. Weren’t people complaining just a few days ago, when we lost to Boston, that Phil apparently sucked at designing inbounds plays? So much for that.

  2. Down 2, it’s funny how that play’s first and only option was for the Kobe three.

  3. Glad to see Bynum had a monster game against some solid competition at center.

  4. 1 – People have some fantasy about what coaching is like – you yell and players instantly respond, you teach them and they learn perfectly, you whip them when they make a mistake, and at the end of the game you pull out the old picket fence play that you never run and you get a miracle.

    The final play was gorgeous and worth re-watching. It’s basically unguardable if run correctly (as all good plays are). The pass to Odom makes the D commit to covering Odom and Fisher weakside, so those 2 defenders are out of the picture. The pass comes back to strong-side where it’s 3 on 3. Kobe comes to the 3 pt line while Pau screens his man. At this point, Marc Gasol has to decide whether to follow Pau or switch to Kobe. If he does the first, Kobe gets a good look at a 3 (which is what happens). If he switches, Kobe will either still get a clean look, or if MG defends well, Kobe can dish to Pau who has open space to work on a smaller defender. If the defenders then double Pau, Ron Ron has run a route to the basket so Pau can dump to him for the layup.

    An excellent play and plausible if not stellar D from the Griz. If I were defending a last-second Laker play, I would use this strategy: double Kobe no matter what, and switch everything after that. Force the other Lakers to make the right reads, the right passes and make the open shot.

    By the way, people ragging on the Grizzlies should relax. They are actually a decent team now. They play well at home and their record is deceptive because they began the year with the whole Iverson soap opera and were integrating Zach.

    The Lakers scrapped out a game where they had rusty shooting and were re-integrating Kobe. This is a solid road win.

  5. One more note about the final play – careful observers can see that the play begins disguised as one of those standard Laker inbounds plays where a player (here Fisher) tries to curl around weakside to rub his man off of a Lamar screen to go to the rim. You’ve seen this play a lot in the past, and when it works it ends with the player (usually Kobe, Shannon or Farmar) going up for the alley-oop slam. The Griz have to defend that option, presumably having scouted it. (To be honest, they probably shouldn’t have, since Fisher taking it to the rim is possibly the worst option on the floor for the Lakers). Just enough deception to keep the defenders committed weakside. So then Pau passes to Lamar who then gets it back strongside, etc…

  6. Don,
    Actually, Kobe himself said that the play was designed to get a two point basket. It worked out that Kobe got a three because of the way that Rudy tried to cut the angle on the pass and not trail Kobe coming to the ball. If Rudy trails Kobe (what he should have done), Kobe would have had to curl towards the basket on his catch and would have had to have taken a two point shot (likely at the elbow area) or he would have had a diving Gasol rolling down the right lane line. This was a play with options, and how it played out was the result of how the Grizz players defended it.

  7. Really diverse summary of all the coverage. Thanks for that.

  8. Rob Mahoney over at Pro Basketball Talk just posted this about J.R. Smith and Kobe.

    http://bit.ly/cpldDZ

  9. Also, Kelly Dwyer over at Ball Don’t Lie on Kobe and the Lakers’ fourth quarter dramatics.

    http://bit.ly/aH9DZ5

    “Over the final two and a half minutes of the game, after sitting out the fourth quarter’s first eight minutes, he scored nine points. His team’s final nine points. He missed two shots, but was fouled on one, and possibly fouled (after stumbling) on the other. Not to make excuses, just to tell you how clearly brilliant and focused this man was down the stretch.

    Of course, it’s easy to maintain focus when O.J. Mayo decides to go under screens, allowing you a clear look at the rim. Seriously, O.J.? Kobe Bryant?”

  10. JR. Smith was that guy in highschool that picked fights with guys bigger than him (if that’s possible) or multiple guys at once and got their a$$’s wooped because their mouth is bigger than their muscles. Now he goes after Kobe… smart.

  11. 5 Darius, you’re probably right about the theory. But did anyone think it was going to be anything otherwise? The way Kobe came out 3 feet behind the line instead of reading the screen seemed to make his intentions pretty clear. I’m not trying to Bill Simmons this one, I’m just impressed that they were so confident in the 3 point option.

    7 JR is hilarious. He couldn’t defend Kobe to save his life last year.

  12. Grizzlies lost that game more than LA winning it. Juice misses 2 free throws and Rudy makes the defensive play of the game (almost) on Kobe but he spiked the ball too hard…idiot. Lakers got luck-eeee.

    Phil, great work bro.

    -Ed.

  13. I know some ppl here like Kelly Dwyer but his bias is just too much sometimes. “Kobe Bryant had performed significantly worse than most of his high-end counterparts down the stretch of close games.” Really, Dwyer? Really? Don’t give me any metrics or basketball reference stats b/c I’m sure the stats probably show Zaza Pachulia performs better down the stretch. Just watch the games, watch the fear in any opponents’ eyes, watch the defensive attention the guy gets. Dwyer, probably b/c of his manlove from Lebron, just doesn’t get it in my opinion.

    J.R. Smith has confidence. I can respect that. But when a dude drops 40+pts. 3 times on you in the playoffs, you probably should just shut it. The positive about this is that I’m sure Kobe, the competitor, is gonna work really hard to shut him down every time he sees him. That obviously improves the team defense against Denver.

  14. Ed, Fish + Pau missed 4 FT’s, Kobe hits two game winners. This was LA making plays, not Grizz giving them the game. Since when was spiking the ball too hard a miscue?

    You’re wrong, thanks.

  15. You would think the “veteran” Fisher can at least make FTs with the game on the line

  16. Spurs have 6 games left against sub .500 teams, Por has 13, NO has 7, HOU has 12.

    Just to give a basic idea about how the race for the last two spots may shape up (of course OKC or PHO could fall too) – but Spurs will have to play better than they have in order to maintain their lead, esp since (barring injury) Por and Hou theoretically improved over the break.

  17. I realized something yesterday that I’ve over-looked because Kobe has been playing every game, every night, day in and day out, for as long as I can remember being a basketball fan, but last night’s game I recognized it again.

    Kobe loves playing basketball. More than anything else, I think that’s what sets him apart from other great players, and that’s one of the reason I think he’s ultimately better than LeBron. Because he loves basketball, and he loves playing. It showed last night, partly because we haven’t seen him play in a while, but also because he’s obviously missed playing. One of many reasons, aside from skill and talent, why I love watching the buy play.

    So I’m in full agreement with Chip Crain. Kobe is the best active player right now, when the game is on the line, late in the 4th. :)

  18. With memories that extend about three nanoseconds back in time and have the analytical abilities of the Mediterranean Fruit Fly, the average fan should be on the endangered species list; then again we do pride ourselves on saving the weak and disadvantaged.

    I no longer read the game thread after the game actually starts. Now some of this ‘analysis’ seems to be going downhill also.

    I don’t mean your initial analysis Darius.

  19. After missing two key FT’s yesterday, I realized I don’t remember Fish hitting a clutch shot all season, only missing key free throws, open three pointers, and poor decision drives to the hoop. (I’m not saying that he didn’t, just that I don’t remember – care to refresh anyone?) Slowly, I do not want this man on the court even in the 4th anymore. And to answer your next question, yes, I would take SB or Farmar in the clutch.

  20. This whole “I would rather have Kobe for the last 5 minutes is silly.” Lets not forget Kobe looked 5 years younger last night after sitting out 3 weeks. Lebron has been better the last year and a half in 4th quarters… but if you wanna ask who would you rather have create the last shot… then I would go with Mr. Bryant.

  21. Hilarious stuff on SS&R

    “2:15 Kobe shoots a three. Look at the three point line. Now look at me. Now look back at the three point line. Now back to me. Kobe stepped on the line. It only counts for two points. Lakers 92, Grizzlies 95. I’m on a horse.”

    http://www.silverscreenandroll.com/2010/2/24/1324218/return-of-the-mack-lakers

  22. Anyone have the stats on Battier vs Kobe after that article?

  23. it’s like lamar’s intensity drops substantially when he isn’t starting. almost like he’s trying to prove a point of how much better it would be for him to start. without actually saying it.

  24. I’ve deleted two comments. You know who you are. I don’t appreciate the attacks and with that comment gone, the response no longer makes sense. We can and will disagree on this site, but we will keep it civil or the comment will be gone.

  25. I think it was Andy Kamenetzky (one of the Laker’s bloggers in any case) who wondered how this latest W would affect the continued Kobe-centrism. I think this is a salient point..

  26. Darius,
    No need to take it down… I was fine with it. And very entertaining regardless.

  27. I asked Dwyer about that play in his chat today and he replied:

    That was, and I’m not joking, an old Red Holzman play (the Kobe three?) called, seriously “WTF.”

    Not the letters, the phrase. No joke. I almost tweeted about it, but there were too many games going on and I had to flip around.

  28. I grow up as a season ticket holder watching Jerry West and then Magic. Both great clutch players. No one is like Kobe. This is his 6th game winning shot this year. Take those 6 wins off the books and the Lakers are fighting Denver and Utah for the lead.

    Kobe is the best stone cold killer under 10 seconds I have ever seen.

  29. You are correct Don. You also forgot the prior game aganist Boston when late in the game he missed two more freethrows. That was the only thing left he could still do. When a 90% FT shooter misses 4 in the last 5 minutes of two games in a row its time to do something with Fish. He has the heart of a lion but the skills of a slug this year.

  30. How many game winners has Kobe now hit this season?
    vr, Xei

  31. The Kobe vs. Lebron comparisons are getting a bit tired. The two guys do not even play the same position. This is not Wilt vs. Russell.

    More than any other sport professional basketball is more often than not decided in the last 5 minutes of a game–just look at the Lakers game last night and the Magic comeback against Cavs on Sunday.

    For that reason, Kobe is still a more decisive player
    (i.e. better) than LBJ in making his team a winner–the last I looked winning being the ultimate goal of any game. But please LBJ is already on his way to joining Kobe as an all-time great as soon as he gets some hardware. But here’s the ultimate question: if your life was on the line and there’s a minute left in the game and the score is tied and you have to have Kobe or LBJ on your team–who you gonna go with? Montana, Woods, Nicklaus, Federer, Jordan–those are the guys Kobe belongs with.

  32. maxnyc,
    I liked that you included a group. Much as we might like, no one in sports is ever #1 all time. There are always several people on pedestals, way above the others, but – since there are also generations of fans and sports – no single person can be up there by themselves. It is enough when most people will admit someone is on one of those pedestals.

    Also Lebron, like Gale Sayers, is not there at this time – regardless of his greatness in the moment. We don’t yet have a large enough body of work.

  33. I just heard that Pau was injured in last night’s game, but is expected to play.

    However, Caron Butler will not play, due to a reaction to medication.