Posted by Neil Paine on June 15, 2010
Last week, I took a look at Kobe Bryant's performance vs. the Boston Celtics in Games 1-3 of the Finals, and how it compared to his performance against them in 2008, as well as LeBron James' performance against them a month ago. With 2 more games having passed, it's time to update the numbers:
You have to give the slight edge to Bryant over James at this point. Defensively, the best guess (given conflicting DRtg and DPA numbers) is that they've been even; offensively, Bryant has the lower ORtg by a point but has done it while taking on 4.6% more team possessions when on the floor, and we know that each extra % of team possessions used will drop your rating by roughly a point. Neither player was their usual selves through 5 games, though, and both players have suffered the dilemma of whether or not to take over the game themselves (a strategy the Celtics have shown a willingness to live with -- and an ability to limit the efficiency of), or to defer to ice-cold teammates.
Above all, I think this is a huge testament to the Celtics' team defense, as they've been able to effectively slow down two of the best offensive forces of this generation and grind their respective offenses to a halt. If the Celtics prevail tonight, we have to think about adding this "Big Four" team to the list of the great defensive dynasties in NBA history.
UPDATE: Bob Voulgaris had a nice post on the same topic yesterday... James has been better than Bryant against every other defense during the last 3 playoffs, but against the Celtics, Bryant has been able to retain more of his usual form than James. It's a Celtics thing, apparently -- when healthy, their defense dominates the opponent's top scorer.