Lakers/Warriors: Monta and Kobe Unlock Video Game God Mode

Zephid —  January 12, 2011

(Well, I was attempting to get commenters to write this recap for me in an attempt to galvanize the site’s fanbase, but as it turns out, people were far more interested in giving LeBron James a solid s***-talking. Thus, you get a 1:30am game recap from me, Zephid)

Wow, first and foremost, I want to say, that was a frickin doozy. Even though the Lakers historically have dominated this matchup against the Warriors, tonight’s game was easily one of the most exciting of the season. From the shot-making to the crazy good defense leading to a crazy difficult shot that actually went in on numerous occasions, this game really had a little bit of everything.

The game started out fairly pedestrian, the Lakers jumped out to a slight early lead, played some pretty solid D, sent the ball in to the post, ran the triangle, and really did the things they were supposed to do (I love run-on sentences; every time I write one is like a massive middle-finger to my 9th grade English teacher). Then, the Warriors offense really started clicking. Cross court passes have killed this Laker team in recent years, and the Warriors employed them to perfection, leading to roughly a bajillion threes from Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis, and Dorell Wright. The Lakers got into big trouble on some pretty simple screen-roll action, repeatedly being late to help on the cross court pass.

However, it didn’t really help that Monta Ellis went into frickin video game God Mode. If you read the play-by-play on most websites, they read, “Monta Ellis makes driving lay-up” or “Monta Ellis makes 18 foot-jumper” about 4-5 times in a row. The Lakers literally could not stop Ellis; didn’t matter if it was Fisher, Blake, Brown, Kobe, Artest, or anyone guarding him, he just got to his spots and sank his shots (I’m a poet and I didn’t know it!).

Defense, however, was the key for the Lakers to get back in the game. Down 35-23 with 9:22 to go in the 2nd quarter, the Lakers shut down the Warriors offense, tying the game at 40 at the 4:33 mark on a Gasol hook (Maybe it’s because Phil finally realized that playing Luke Walton leads to bad defense?). The Warriors, however, refused to fold, giving the Lakers the ka-pow to end the quarter and went into halftime with an 8 point lead.

As you can see, I’ve recapped an entire half and not mentioned a very conspicuous Laker even once. Probably realizing that this might happen, Mr. Bryant himself almost certainly decided out-loud in a commanding voice before the start of the third quarter, “I’m gonna frickin win this game.” The possessions read in some order: Kobe miss, Kobe free throws, Kobe jumper, Kobe jumper, Kobe bad pass, Kobe jumper, Kobe bad pass, Kobe jumper, Kobe miss, Kobe miss. Frankly, I could’ve sworn that there were more “Kobe bad pass’s” than were stated in the play-by-play, because Kobe did his patented jump-in-to-the-air-then-figure-out-what-the-f***-I’m-gonna-do move on at least 4 occasions, all leading to less than desirable results (read: turnovers). Honestly, Kobe kept the Lakers in the game in the 3rd, but he also kept the Lakers out of the game in the 3rd. Kobe, the one-man double-edged sword.

So, the Lakers go into the 4th down 6, and they see two things: 1.) Andrew Bynum is being guarded by David frickin Lee (all 6’9, 250 lbs of him), and 2.) Lamar Odom is being guarded by Vladimir Radmanovic. First two possessions went something like: pass into Drew in the post; dribble, pound, dribble, pound, free throws / layup. At that point, Keith Smart was probably like “well, this kinda sux, I’d better save David Lee from his own defenselessness,” and proceeded to sub in Andris Biedrins. Then noticing #2 of my points above, Lamar Odom probably saw he was being guarded by Radman and must have imagined the Space Cadet’s face morphing into a gigantic peachy ring, because he proceeded to dominate the crap out of him. Odom Layup, Odom jumper, Odom jumper, Odom free throws, and suddenly the Lakers are up 1.

Now, having been sitting out for the beginning of the 4th quarter (and probably realizing that the whole past paragraph did not include a single mention of himself), Kobe Bryant checked in right in between Lamar’s free throws and probably decided to himself “f*** Lamar, I told everyone that I’m gonna frickin win this game.” The next few possessions go something like: Kobe three, Kobe free throws, Kobe and1, Kobe jumper, Kobe assist, ending with a Kobe dagger three to put the Lakers up 6 with 43 seconds to play. The game gets just a little bit tense later (due to 2 VladRad 3′s, a Dorell Wright 3, and a Wright dunk), but the game was pretty much won at that point.

All of this happened, and I didn’t even mention that Gasol had another monster game against the Warriors, going for 24 and 11 on 8-14 shooting, while Stephen Curry was pretty quiet with 15 and 10 assists on 5-12 shooting. Kobe had an uber-efficient 39 points, 6 boards, 4 assists, 3 steals, and 6 turnovers (ok maybe turnovers aren’t very efficient), while Monta kept pace with 38 points on 15-26 shooting with 3 assists and 2 steals. And for the Warriors, when your starting center gets only 3 rebounds, you know something bad has happened, namely you got outrebouded 18-7 on the offensive glass and 47-27 overall.

This game really came down to three things: 1.) Monta Ellis is frickin unstoppable in the early parts of games, but burns out in the 2nd half because Keith Smart plays him a bajillion minutes a night; 2.) The Lakers length not only gives them a huge rebounding advantage, but it also gives them a huge defensive advantage with Bynum in the middle; 3.) When Kobe Bryant wants to take over a game, he takes over a game, for better or worse. The Lakers came out of it with a solid win against a decent team, coming from behind and not losing control once they got over the hump. The Lakers are continuing to build on their recent solid play, and that’s really all you can ask for in the middle of January.

-Zephid

Zephid

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33 responses to Lakers/Warriors: Monta and Kobe Unlock Video Game God Mode

  1. Good recap Zephid! Can’t help but feel that I know this game based on your recap alone. Anyway, I’m not the first to notice this, but shouldn’t Stephen be getting more touches and shots. Not saying Monta should sacrifice all of his, especially tonight, but there are nights where, much like Kobe, Monta’s shooting is just as likely to take his team out of the game as it is to put them back in it. Also, I love run-ons myself, although not as a middle-finger to any of my teachers.

  2. Great frickin job. Monta was great, but he plays no D. Now does everyone see why several of us (led by the Dude) were so adamant about signing Dorell Wright. The guy would be excellent off our bench.

  3. I watched the game and I didn’t think Monta was dominating the ball. He was very efficient with it and passed it on often, it just came back to him because his teammates knew he was on fire.

    When Monta isn’t shooting it well this season, he’s been doing a better job deferring to his teammates.

    I’m mixed about Curry’s performance. He got it going in the 4th but on multiple occasions he would over dribble or drive into traffic and throw it away. I just haven’t seen much growth in his game from last year. Sometimes I worry he might end up like OJ Mayo and start regressing. He was playing his best dominating the ball with a bunch of D-leaguers when the Warriors were wracked with injuries last year.

  4. Tonight’s game was a little more exciting than I was hoping it would be, but they can’t all be 50+ point wins, can they?

  5. That ending was off the chain. GSW couldn’t miss.

  6. That was a very entertaining game (much more than the Cavs game). I don’t know how many times the W’s made a shot at the end of the fourth that made me say “holy shit that went in”. Only to be answered by Kobe.

    OT. But I am looking forward to the Clipper game on Sunday, I can’t remember the last time I could say that was. . They have been playing good ball lately. Gordan has been playing good all year and Griffin is a freak of nature, seriously 22 and 13 as a rookie is ridiculous, and he’s been playing even better than that recently (I like run on sentences too). But now Baron Davis is starting play better, he actually looks interested (we will see how long that lasts for though), so they are starting to win more games .

  7. Zephid,

    Your analysis only confirms what many of us have been noticing for some time–but really exaggerated on this back-to-back.

    Kobe scores 13 (in “team” mode)–and the Lakers win by 55.

    Kobe scores 39 (in hero mode)–and the Lakers barely squeek by in the last few minutes (Kobe (+/-)=-2).

  8. When you feel like you are writing a run-on sentence just use a semi colon (;) at your own discretion.

  9. #8. Just the other day I was advocating for plus/minus as a useful statistic, but also agreed with others that it shouldn’t be used as more than a tool in a broader analysis. In this instance, you’ve seemingly cherry-picked the stat to help bolster your conclusion that Kobe didn’t help the team as much as his stat line suggests.

    However, when looking at the entire game (and the flow of the game), it’s easier seen that Kobe had one bad stretch (the end of the 2nd quarter where he had a couple of turnovers and the Warriors went on their finishing kick to close the half up 8 points) and one fantastic stretch (the last 6 minutes of the game). That left him -1 for the contest, but overall a net positive becuase without his effort (and, of course, Odom’s) the Lakers likely lose the game to a very game Warriors team.

    Also, it’s pretty simplistic to say “team mode Kobe” and “hero Kobe” in an analysis, point to margin of victory and essentially say “tada! See what happens when Kobe plays team ball?”. That doesn’t account for quality of opponent, game circumstances, or what the team’s needs were throughout the game. The closeness of last night’s game had little to do with Kobe’s FGA’s or his mindset and much more to do with how well the Warriors played, the shots that Monta (and Wright) hit throughout the contest, and how the Warriors were just so timely with a lot of their makes (they really did hit a ton of run stoppers – none bigger than Monta’s buzzer beater at the end of the third).

    UPDATED: Kobe actually had two pretty good stretches…his entire 3rd quarter (13 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 TO) was pretty good too.

  10. @ 8 drrayeye,

    Oh yeah so the reason we only won by 8 was all because Kobe tried to score too much, right? It had nothing to do with getting stops on the defensive end right? I mean the Cavs shot 29.9 percent not over 50 percent like the W’s. The Cavs didn’t have Monta Ellis shooting them into the game like the W’s. The Cavs didn’t have Dorrell Wright hitting contested 3′s like the W’s. Come on man at least try to make a valid argument.

    “Team” mode Kobe wouldn’t have worked last night because the team didn’t have it rolling like we did against the Cavs.

  11. The problem is not Kobe’s hero-mode or team-mode, it’s 1) his efficiency 2) his defense.

    When those two are in Kobe’s game that particular night, we’ll probably win whether he scores a ton or assists a ton.

  12. It seems a bit of a stretch to call the Warriors a decent team. They are a bad team that was jacked up to play the champs and longtime nemesis Lakers.

  13. Since people like to cherry pick stats I’ll join in the fun. Kobe hit 13/21 from the field, a true FG% of 62%.

    Dabbling in “advanced stats” I believe he had an effective FG% of 67%. since he hit 2/5 from 3 pt land.

  14. @ 8

    This is really a chicken/egg argument that I’ve had with people many times.

    Against Cleveland, Kobe didn’t shoot as much because he didn’t HAVE TO. LA was blowing the Cavs out early. He didn’t need to do much.

    Against the Warriors, Kobe shot more because he (at least arguably) HAD TO. Ellis and crew were pouring in the points, and he was looking to keep the team in it. And he did. In the 3rd quarter he kept LA in the contest, and the last 6 minutes was vintage Mamba-mode.

    I sometimes get biased about this issue, and will acknowledge my status as a Kobe apologist–but there is an argument to be made that Kobe shoots more in close games or games LA loses because–it’s a closer game and he has to….rather than the other way around, i.e., that because he shot more it’s a closer game or they lost.

    There clearly are examples of both issues. I have seen plenty of games where Kobe goes into gunner mode and creates problems (those are the nights my wife gets mad because every 10 seconds I’m telling Kobe he has teammates, and she reminds me they can’t hear me through the TV)

    Last night is an example of the former, though, not the latter…as reflected by “R” in post 13, Kobe was very efficient with his shooting last night. He shot 13 for 21. When Kobe is shooting like that, who else do you want taking some of those 21 shots?

  15. OT (mostly), it seems only right, after all of yesterday’s negatory comments, to point out that LBJ now claims he was just re-tweeting something and didn’t mean anything by it.. at all. [heh.]

  16. 12, really? You don’t think a team that starts Monta Ellis, Stephen Curry, Dorell Wright, David Lee, and Andris Biedrins is a decent team? Sure they’ve got almost no depth, but 4 out of their 5 starters would start on almost any NBA team, and Biedrins is a solid rotational big man. That alone makes them decent. Not good, definitely not great, but at least decent.

    8, I think your interpretation is very skewed. The Warriors are a much, much, much better team than the Cavs (seriously, how many of those Cavs had you never even heard of before last night?). And the Cavs didn’t have Monta Ellis scoring 38 for them. Really, I would say that the Warriors top 4 players are better than the top Cavs player (Mo Williams or Antawn Jamison, depending on your taste), and Biedrins is pretty close to those two.

    I agree, Kobe played pretty badly in the short stretch that Darius mentioned, using too many jump-passes which led to turnovers. But otherwise, he was really amazing. This game was close because the Warriors are a great 3-point shooting team, and they have a guy like Ellis to carry them for long stretches.

    3, I wasn’t completely sold on Wright before the season started, but I was sold enough to get him on my fantasy team ($$). Got him off waivers the first week and been loving it ever since. I’m not sure if it would’ve worked as well, but if we shifted Shannon to backup PG, signed Wright as backup SG, and had Barnes as backup SF, this team would’ve probably been better. However, Blake has been a pretty solid backup PG, so I can’t really fault Mitch for going with the more certain choice (Blake) over the wild card (Wright).

  17. Darius,

    I said the two game comparison was exaggerated, but you have made much the same argument yourself. When Kobe plays within the offense and allows the ball to go inside–good things happen. When Kobe freelances, the offense bogs down, the defense suffers, and the Lakers rarely blow the opponent out–and sometimes lose.

    Even on the game when Kobe scored 81, the Lakers did not win easily against the Raptors.

    If I were trying to bolster my argument, I might have pointed to the 6 turnovers–all too common for Kobe–and noted by Zephid above.

    This type of comparison is not new–it runs through Kobe’s entire career in one form or another–but one would think that Kobe would notice that he needs to adapt his role to a very talented team.

  18. #18. There is game based analysis and then there is long term analysis. Sometimes those line up and are the same thing, and other times it’s not. In the big picture, yes the offense works best working inside out (and that means post ups for the bigs, for the other post up options – Kobe, Ron – and through penetration). But last night, the offense was tremendous and Kobe played a major role in that. The Lakers had an Offensive Efficiency of over 120 (about 5 points higher than their already league leading mark). In the end, I just think you’re looking at the wrong factors in determining why the game was close…it had little to do with Kobe or his offensive approach.

    On a different note – Kobe adjusting to his role on this team? What role would that be? Secondary option? Kobe for better or for worse is the life blood of this team. Listening to Phil, Ron, Gasol, Odom, and Kobe himself speak before and after the game last night cemented that for me even further. And, for the record, how he’s playing now has helped the Lakers win the last two championships. I really don’t expect him to change now and still don’t understand why others do.

  19. Fun game. I almost posted yesterday (but didn’t want to jinx) that the Warriors team that dropped 72 in the first half on the road against Miami is a tough one to beat, and sure enough we saw that team last night. Should be some good fodder for the film sessions, especially the active hands that disrupted a lot of the interior passing.

    How about that Steph Curry halfcourt shot attempt at the end of the first quarter? That was easily the highest arcing shot I have ever seen! Someone get him and Shannon in a long shot contest, with extra credit for style.

  20. Reign on Parades January 13, 2011 at 10:10 am

    Now that I’m not as high on a vintage Kobe close (well, almost vintage if you don’t count Monta not getting shut down) and Lamar’s glorious pay-through-pain 4th I’m ready to go ahead and admit we played some pretty cruddy defense against the Warriors

    I think it was by design too. I don’t know if this scheme is going to work against perimeter oriented 3 point shooting teams like the Warriors and more relevantly the Heat. I would be more in favor of it we didn’t have half of the relevant back to the basket players in the league.

  21. Darius,
    ” I really don’t expect him to change now and still don’t understand why others do.”

    I don’t expect him to, but I hope he will.
    Why? Because it’s for the good of the team.

  22. Darius I would have to disagree about LA likely losing without Mr. Bean going into hero mode. Because it was the team that turned a beginning of the 4th quarter deficit( 6 points) into a lead of 1before Kobe even stepped on the floor. I was nervous last night because of the simple fact IsoBean was going away from what had got the team back into the game. He tried to fix something that was not broken(team was neither lacking energy or focus at that point). If team is uninterested, that frame of mind is understood, but a fully engaged squad doesnt need a soloist. Just Say’n

  23. #22. Not to belabour the point (we’ve discussed this many times) but better for the team, how exactly? I’m fully on board with a balanced offense. Fully on board, too, with an offense that works our strengths on the interior. But comments that make it seem like Kobe’s not a strength of this team are off base.

    In the end I think people want a perfect player that makes every shot he takes all while constantly deferring to the big men who they also expect to play perfect every night. Now, even with some hyperbole sprinkled into that statement, how exactly is Kobe supposed to play for people to actually be happy with his performance? The game is not played in a vacuum and I feel like so much of this discussion is now being based on idealism rather than working in the real world of this team.

    As I said earlier, there is the big picture argument and the game to game one where a single contest unfolds based off the specific traits of that specific game. In that game the players will make choices that they see best at the time. If you’re going to consistently question Kobe’s decision making (even in a game like last night where he was a major reason for victory) I really don’t know what to say besides I hope you enjoy being upset a lot because that’s all that perspective is going to get you.

  24. exhelodrvr,
    You sound like someone who is looking for statistics to back up a previously determined opinion. This is a hard place to come to an objective view of the facts.

    As for the Lakers playing ‘cruddy defense’ against the Warriors…that is really the point with these run-and-gun teams. In the regular season they are always hard to prepare for and they get by your usual habits. In the playoffs you have 7 games to adjust and even the refs are more careful with their calls – all things that will slow down the game.

  25. #23. I agree, but only to a point. The fact is that the Lakers had closed the gap but still would have needed to finish the game. Does that happen with only LO as a scorer? Does it happen with he and Gasol (who came into the game after Kobe did with about 5 minutes left) taking on the burden. I’m not so sure (with LO having played the entire period and giving his major push in the first 6 minutes of the 4th and Pau coming off a long rest, I think it can be argued either way). The fact is that down the stretch the Warriors were still making countless tough shots and the momentum hung in the balance. Being in the arena, you could see how every Kobe shot slowly started to turn the tide and shift the game in the Lakers favor. Does that same thing happen if someone else scores? I have no clue, but being there you just got the sense that without a classic Kobe push this game may have swung the other way. This is where – even with NO statistical evidence to back it up and only really relying on gut feel and long-time fan experience – that it pays to have one of those transcendant stars on your team. The kind of star whose presence and ability to grab the game can ensure a win down the stretch. It doesn’t happen a lot, but I thought last night was one of those nights. Again, maybe I’m wrong, but being in the arena, that’s the sense I got.

  26. Who has said Kobe is not a strength of the team?

    The issue is that too often Kobe tries to do too much by himself; that usually results in a less than optimum performance by the team. The overall result is that the team is not as good as it could be. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t good enough to win titles.

    The same logic applies to Odom with his inconsistent focus prior to this season. (Knock on wood.) Doesn’t mean that he wasn’t a strength of the team. Doesn’t mean that they weren’t good enough to win titles with it. Does mean that the team was not as good as it could have been.

    The same is true of Gasol’s off-and-on aversion to physical play.

    etc.

    Do you think that the coaches never discuss these same points with Kobe, and don’t want him to play within the system more?

  27. 25) Craig W.,
    1) Do you think opposing teams would rather have Kobe play within the system, or outside of the system, and take their chances on him getting hot?

    2) If Kobe wasn’t making his shots in the fourth quarter, do you think he would have stopped shooting as much as he was?

  28. I am sure teams would rather have Kobe in ‘take over’ mode for the entire game. The problem for other teams is that the Lakers don’t play that way. Kobe takes over in stretches. Normally they are stretches where the Lakers are struggling or the other team is starting to make a run (see: http://www.littlewhitestatistics.com/?cat=7 for an analysis a couple of years ago).

    The Lakers have several different ways to play. That is one of the difficulties other coaches have in trying to decide how to play them. It is this variety that ultimately frustrates even good teams.

  29. #27. I don’t think coaches take the same approach that you’re taking, which very much seems like a black or white one. There’s a large area of gray that Kobe operates in during a large chunck of most games. But instead of that being the story, the outlier games/stetches get brought up as the norm or become the major talking points. Why is that? It comes off very much like nitpicking. I mean you just said that just because these things exist doesn’t mean the Lakers aren’t good enough to win the title. But, again we ask for more. I understand that perfection is sought, but dealing with and accepting less is often a very good approach when the results achieved are what we seek. Am I wrong here? It’s not like the team is completely underachieving or that things are terribly wrong.

  30. In politics the person who gets one vote more than 50% wins. Does that mean that person is completely right all the time? Should we take what they want to do without question?

    If there is no perfection in politics why should we expect it in sports?

  31. @3, 17. Snoopy2006 and I wanted Wright signed to play PG instead of Blake. Our feeling was that he didn’t have to be a great ballhandler to initiate the offense, just make the first pass into the post on those occasions when he brings the ball upcourt. After that entry pass, he could go find a place to spot up, much like Fish does. On defense, he’s shown in the past that he can defend quick PGs as well as anyone. So having Wright, Kobe, and Artest/Barnes as our perimeter defenders would be pretty sweet.

    The thing is, signing Wright would have been a risk. Blake is a known quantity, and runs the offense well when he doesn’t try and do too much. At times, he looks like he studied at the Derek Fisher School Of Driving Into Traffic. Getting back to the point, I can understand why Mitch signed Steve Blake, but I would be disappointed if I learned that Mitch never took Wright into consideration as a triangle PG.

  32. Thank you Dude. I gave you credit earlier as the initial Dorell Wright fan. I always felt the same. He would be like Ron Harper was for the Lakers (Bring in up, drop it off and set up. Play long-winged defense). I watched him in Miami and thought that we could use him in exactly the same way. That is why I am such a proponent of rescuing OJ Mayo. He could fit that same criteria.