Posted by Neil Paine on May 20, 2010
Last night, the Lakers were clinical again in their dissection of the Suns (except in the 3rd quarter, that is). Kobe Bryant wasn't even L.A.'s top scorer (Pau Gasol had 29 pts), but he completely controlled the flow of the game, and his facilitation made the Laker offense work (again, except in the 3rd quarter). Why do I keep bringing up the 3rd quarter? Maybe it was a coincidence, but the Suns' greatest success came in the period where Kobe had no assists -- Bryant had 9 in the first half, when L.A. staked itself to a 9-point lead; 0 in the 3rd quarter, when Phoenix roared back to tie the game; and 4 in the 4th, when the Lakers asserted themselves and re-took the lead for good.
Of course, that's not to say Kobe as a passer is always the best formula for Los Angeles -- after all, he had his typical 5 dimes in Game 1 of the series and was equally brilliant, scoring 40 points. But his facilitation was key for them last night, as their offense rose and fell based on Bryant's involvement as a playmaker and a scorer, sometimes simultaneously (Kevin Arnovitz has a good video about this very topic at True Hoop).
21-point, 13-assist games aren't exactly uncommon in the playoffs, but they are rare for non-PGs. Here's every such game since 1991 for players who didn't man the point:
It's no coincidence that all but 1 of those games resulted in a team win (poor T-Mac); as we saw last night, when an uber-talented player like Bryant gets into one of these facilitation modes, it makes his offense nearly impossible to stop.