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LakerTracker 2010: Games 1-3

Posted by Neil Paine on June 9, 2010

If you listened to any of the hype in the days leading up to Game 1 of the Finals, you know that this Lakers-Celtics series was going to be seen as a referendum on two things: how much Kobe Bryant (and the Lakers as a team) have improved since 2008, and which player is better in the Kobe-LeBron debate. Conveniently for the casual fan, the common opponent in all three cases (Lakers-Celts 2008, Celts-Cavs 2010, & Lakers-Celts 2010) is the Boston Celtics, a team that -- superficially, at least -- has changed very little in the past few years, making for an easy and seemingly valid measuring stick.

I won't debate the validity of this assumption any more than to point out that more has changed for the Celtics since 2008 than meets the eye. But say for the purposes of argument that the basic premise is valid, that you can straight-up compare Kobe '08, Kobe '10, and LeBron '10 on the basis of their performance against a common playoff foe... Who looks better after 3 games?

First, let's look at the teams and their Four Factors:

Offense Defense
Year Team Opp Pace ORtg eFG% TOV% OR% FTr DRtg eFG% TOV% OR% FTr
2008 LAL BOS 87.9 105.1 49.1 12.5 22.3 22.7 108.9 47.8 15.6 28.3 30.8
2010 LAL BOS 86.6 110.4 47.3 13.5 28.9 34.1 106.2 46.9 13.8 24.2 29.5

Using the Celtics as a barometer, the Lakers have improved significantly in the first 3 games of the 2010 Finals, vs. the first 3 games of their 2008 series. Boston has actually held the Lakers to a lower eFG% and a higher turnover % than in 2008, but L.A. has been flat-out abusing the C's inside, as evidenced by their huge rebounding & offensive free throw rates. Much of the Lakers' newfound inside advantage can be attributed to the presence of Andrew Bynum, whose 2008 injury may have been (in retrospect) the key to the Celtics' win. The primary Laker frontcourt in 2008 consisted of these players (stats through 3 games):

Glossary

Player G GS Min ORtg %Pos DRtg DPA Floor% Stop%
Pau Gasol 3 3 121 111.3 17.9 107.8 0.37 0.560 0.522
Lamar Odom 3 3 99 84.1 20.3 107.4 0.19 0.419 0.532
V. Radmanovic 3 3 60 111.9 18.0 103.8 1.25 0.450 0.615
Ronny Turiaf 3 0 40 103.6 9.5 112.4 0.41 0.531 0.416
Luke Walton 3 0 38 53.6 12.8 111.6 -1.25 0.256 0.434

This year's version has been significantly more productive:

Player G GS Min ORtg %Pos DRtg DPA Floor% Stop%
Pau Gasol 3 3 128 133.5 21.0 103.2 2.94 0.665 0.571
Ron Artest 3 3 97 86.8 15.6 106.4 0.76 0.387 0.497
Andrew Bynum 3 3 96 120.5 18.4 105.3 1.91 0.601 0.522
Lamar Odom 3 0 64 109.1 14.9 107.6 0.41 0.519 0.467
Luke Walton 2 0 18 110.6 6.6 108.2 0.62 0.542 0.455

As for Bryant, he's been far better defensively (although he was responsible for checking Rajon Rondo when Rondo had a triple-double in Game 2), but less effective on offense:

Glossary

Player Year G Min ORtg %Pos DRtg DPA Floor% Stop%
Kobe Bryant 2008 3 128 106.5 35.0 108.4 -1.66 0.514 0.508
Kobe Bryant 2010 3 117 104.3 35.9 101.6 0.22 0.476 0.610
Player Year MPG T/Min %Pass %Shoot %Fouled %TO
Kobe Bryant 2008 42.5 1.56 44 35 15 6
Kobe Bryant 2010 39.0 1.65 49 37 9 5
Player Year P/36 2P% 3P% FT% TS% %FGA FTr 3Ptd
Kobe Bryant 2008 25.4 49.2 25.0 77.4 54.5 34.0% 44.9 11.6
Kobe Bryant 2010 24.6 43.6 25.0 95.2 49.9 39.2% 29.6 22.5
Player Year AsR ToR PPR OR% DR% Blk% Stl%
Kobe Bryant 2008 25.3 13.4 -0.78 3.7 9.4 0.6 2.6
Kobe Bryant 2010 30.1 13.2 0.57 3.2 16.4 2.7 3.3

Finally, how about the 2010 Kobe-LeBron comparison after 3 games vs. Boston?

Glossary

Player G Min ORtg %Pos DRtg DPA Floor% Stop%
LeBron James 3 124 126.8 31.8 102.3 2.40 0.604 0.624
Kobe Bryant 3 117 104.3 35.9 101.6 0.22 0.476 0.610
Player MPG T/Min %Pass %Shoot %Fouled %TO
LeBron James 41.2 1.63 53 30 13 4
Kobe Bryant 39.0 1.65 49 37 9 5
Player P/36 2P% 3P% FT% TS% %FGA FTr 3Ptd
LeBron James 28.2 58.3 38.5 74.3 63.5 32.0% 57.4 21.3
Kobe Bryant 24.6 43.6 25.0 95.2 49.9 39.2% 29.6 22.5
Player AsR ToR PPR OR% DR% Blk% Stl%
LeBron James 29.3 10.8 3.24 4.3 17.0 3.7 3.0
Kobe Bryant 30.1 13.2 0.57 3.2 16.4 2.7 3.3

Through 3 games, James thoroughly outplayed Bryant in practically every phase of the game. Although to be fair to Kobe, Game 3 was LeBron's magnum opus, a 38-point (on .636 shooting), 8-rebound, 7-assist masterpiece that proved to be his last truly great effort of the year -- James followed up that performance with 2 mediocre games (by his standards) and a legitimately terrible effort in Game 5. At the time, I noted that the Celtics' defense has shown an ability to adapt and take away the opponent's best player, which they did to James in those games, and to Kobe as well in 2008. But if Bryant can avoid the same fate -- and if his teammates continue to dominate -- Kobe will have an opportunity to gain plenty of ground on LeBron as the series goes on. Stay tuned, because this battle will likely come down to the final game of the season.

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54 Responses to “LakerTracker 2010: Games 1-3”

  1. Hk Says:

    I don't care what people remember, I'll happily refresh their memories with the facts. I feel comfortable with reality and will simply regurgitate it when necessary. I've seen Neil clearly address the gist of your ideas, the rest is not really necessary but could be interesting. For fun I suppose.

    2. I see three clearly poor games by Game score, another average one I guess. Again with that kind of sample size I'm not sure you should be making any definitive conclusions. By having a super poor performance he just ensured a loss, by the way. The kind of loss Boston had recently by having a player shoot 0-13, where going 5-13 would have been different. If over a span of various Finals/playoff series this trend shows up, maybe you would have more to stand on. Giving credit for a team stat is something I'm still dubious about.

    UB- In spite of his dislike for LA, he's the type of writer that reads too much into short term performance and intangibles. This is a nuance I just wanted to note.

  2. koberulz Says:

    If I remember correctly, Dwyane, Melo and LeBron, or one or two of them, or something (it was a while ago) explicitly mentioned that Kobe's work ethic had inspired them to work harder and become better players. FWIW.

  3. Walter Says:

    Neil, is it possible to get this blog updated with numbers through 5 games now? Thanks.

  4. Neil Paine Says:

    I can do that tomorrow. Today's post is about Kobe, but not this specific topic.