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Layups: Henry Abbott Sets the Record Straight on Kobe in Crunch Time

Posted by Neil Paine on January 28, 2011

A must-read: TrueHoop's Henry Abbott tries to dig through all the mythmaking and find the truth about Kobe Bryant in crunch time.

The truth about Kobe Bryant in crunch time - TrueHoop Blog - ESPN

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66 Responses to “Layups: Henry Abbott Sets the Record Straight on Kobe in Crunch Time”

  1. Ryan Says:

    Its been done every year. I'm still waiting for someone do a similar study for Jordan's playing years. Would it expose Jordan's reputation as a myth if someone shot a higher percentage than him in "crunch time".?

  2. King Kong Says:

    One interesting thing is where other big names are on that list. The focus is on Kobe, because Kobe makes people read articles, but let's look at other names:

    Lebron = 33%
    Ray Allen = 33%
    Kevin Garnett = 30%

  3. P Middy Says:

    Entire league average is 29.7, so in many ways Kobe is still a dude you want shooting the last shot, compared to the rest of the Association. Please note, that there are also only 4 individuals on the list who started on a championship team. No Robert Horry on here?

  4. Arshdeep Says:

    I wish Kobe was as clutch as Steve Francis, Damon Stoudemire, Jalen Rose and Shawn Marion. Sigh.

  5. P Middy Says:

    According to teh webs, Jordan has 25. But no word on total attempts.
    http://www.nba.com/jordan/game_winners.html

    Suddenly, Melo seems very sexy.

    I think if we jacked the minutes up to 1.5 Jordan's PT and FG% would be WAY ahead of everyone else. The clutch shot in a close game may not always come at the end.

  6. Akg Says:

    Seems like Henry is a bit obsessed with trying to defame Kobe in every way possible..

    What is this, the 3rd or 4th time he's written about the same? Then trying to rationalize GM/player opinions by saying they PREDICTED Durant would win MVP and Wall ROY?

    I have a hard time believing a grown man would stoop to such low levels.

  7. AYC Says:

    I can't stand Kobe, but even I think this article is unfair. Is the final 24 seconds of a game the only time that qualifies as "crunchtime"? Why use a 2 point deficit as the cutoff, instead of 3 pts (still a one possession game)? To me, "crunchtime" is the last 8 minutes of a close game, not just the final half minute. If you make enough shots in the final minutes, you won't have to decide the game in the final 24 seconds. That said, I would rather have Wade, or Lebron, taking the final shot; they are both better at getting to the rim, drawing fouls, and hitting open teammates than the predator

  8. Anon Says:

    Some thoughts:

    1. Vince Carter is more clutch than people give him credit for.
    2. It would be more useful to look at a player's performance for the last couple of minutes and not 24 seconds, as AYC suggests. With this you could actually look at some Oliver/SPM stats and see who plays well in "cruchtime".
    3. Basketball fans obsess WAY too much over clutch numbers in the first place. Like, really...it's disgusting.

  9. JTaylor21 Says:

    Yes, finally something I knew all along. KB is by far the most overrated clutch player in history, I mean the way the media and laker fans talk about his so-called killer clutch ability, you would have swore that dude was 100% on all his clutch shots. Give me JWest and MJ over him 365 days of the year.

  10. John Doe Says:

    I believe the impetus for Henry's writing this article was his appearance on the ESPN NBA Today podcast with Ryen Rusillo, in which the topic came up and Henry made some bold (but rational) claims about Kobe's clutchness. Specifically, Rusillo asked him whether he'd rather have Kobe or Kevin Martin to take a last shot, and Abbott chose Martin. Rusillo made a pretty big deal about it, implying that Abbot was going to take a lot of heat for it, which he probably did.

    The column is likely an attempt to flesh out his less-than-fully-explained rationale from the podcast, and it uses the "final 24 seconds, tie, down one, or down two" because those were the terms given to him by Rusillo on the podcast. We've all seen similar articles written using the 82games.com definition of crunch time (within a 5 point game, 5 or fewer minutes left), and it's not like those numbers reveal anything different about Kobe.

    Anyway, Abbott isn't wrong. He ought to write the column annually until people dig their heads out of the sand. There are plenty of guys I'd rather have running an isolation, but I wouldn't choose any of them over a well drawn-up play in which the player shooting is whomever the defense left open.

  11. huevonkiller Says:

    My only problem with the article, is that it seems to narrow. Crunch time if far longer, and shoot include Assists, rebounds, free throws, etc., like 82games does it.

  12. huevonkiller Says:

    *too narrow. Crunch time is far longer and should include assists

    Very interesting though.

  13. Ed Says:

    Geez, I hate to be a jerk but some of you have some major reading comprehension issues. In addition to what John Doe (@10) states, the article discusses up front that GM's and players overwhelmingly believe that Kobe is the best player at taking the last shot of the game. Hence the narrow definition used in the article.

  14. Anon Says:

    "Anyway, Abbott isn't wrong. He ought to write the column annually until people dig their heads out of the sand. There are plenty of guys I'd rather have running an isolation, but I wouldn't choose any of them over a well drawn-up play in which the player shooting is whomever the defense left open."

    This is a great point. I think that what this article shows is not so much Bryant isn't capable of making that shot, but rather that he's simply NOT ABOVE THE REST OF HIS PEERS in this category (which is contrary to public opinion). Guys like Dirk, LeBron, Tim Duncan, Ray Allen, etc. are within 15 makes of Kobe while haven taken many less attempts. Vince Carter, the man often chastised for being the "opposite of clutch", has five less makes than Kobe in 20 LESS ATTEMPTS. Remember, this is the sport that despises stat analysis the most and prefers "conventional wisdom" - but what's conventional about disregarding evidence? In many other professions, that kind of thinking doesn't earn respect and can even get yourself fired.

    Then again, with the way clutch numbers deal with these small sample sizes in the first place, I always marvel at how so many in the basketball world continue to harp about this topic.

  15. Ryan Says:

    The biggest takeaway I had from the article was about end-of-game strategy. Yeah, if you have a big name, like Kobe/LeBron/Durant on the team, it's most likely going to end up in their hands. However - if the entire league, in these circumstances, shoots so horribly compared to the other 47:36, why not just treat that possession like a regular one? Run your best out-of-bounds or set play, with several options, and whoever gets the ball with the best look takes it.

    I remember a few years ago - it may have been the playoffs, but I can't remember - Cleveland was down two with a few seconds left. LeBron got the ball, did some moves, drove to the hoop, then kicked it out to...Marshall? for a potential winning shot, that barely missed. Everyone gave him grief about it - but I thought it was a great play - he created an opportunity for the team to win the game.

    Abbott also touches on my biggest complaint about Kobe in the article - he carries himself as bigger than the team or coach. He has gotten his reputation as clutch because he's taken so many of these shots - and made more than anyone, but at an average (or barely above average) percentage.

    What would be an interesting study would be to take some of the bigger names on the list, and look at ALL of the game-ending shots that have been taken while they were on the floor - see who took the highest percentage, see how their teams did when they were on the floor at the end. This would give a better picture of how "clutch" someone is. Perhaps with somebody like Kobe/LeBron/Paul/Durant, their individual numbers may seem low, but maybe they have been able to create more open shots for their teammates.

  16. Nick Says:

    Ryan-

    LeBron getting grief for making good passes to open teammates is pretty ridiculous (and I remember the game you were referring to. Can't remember who it was he passed to either). Especially the claims that Jordan would never have passed there, when Jordan passed to open teammates for the last shot on a regular basis.

    Kobe, on the other hand, routinely tries to shoot through double or triple coverage if the game is on the line. It's a dumb basketball play.

  17. Ryan Says:

    Nick

    You don't remember who passed to Artest in his big 3 in Game 7 last year do you? Or the late Fisher 3s against the Magic?

    Kobe has only taken one "clutch shot" this year and made it.

  18. AYC Says:

    It was Marshall. Jordan made the same pass a thousand times; his "secret" was that he had lights out shooters like Paxson, Armstrong and Kerr to pass out to.

    Anon, I have to disagree about the importance of "clutch" stats. Most games are decided in the fourth quarter. Even with big 4th quarter deficits of 15-20 pts, teams can come back if they defend and shoot well enough down the stretch.

  19. ELJ Says:

    Put a video of each of those shots by Kobe and Melo, or somebody. Most of those shots by Kobe are shots that other guys would have very little chance of making. Basketball is more than just stats.

  20. Anon Says:

    AYC, I understand all of that and you're correct. It's just that people who look at clutch numbers often use it for predictive or analysis purposes, and that kind of dataset is small, especially in comparison to a player's entire career. That's what I meant earlier - I certainly would have Wade or Bron create a shot if I need points to win a game, but then again, wouldn't I do this as often as possible throughout the rest of the game anyway?

    ELJ, there's something to be said about 1) making the right play in basketball and 2) turning a harder shot into an easier shot. These are two things that Kobe hasn't always excelled at, and are strengths that other players have even if they aren't as good at shooting a 40-foot fadeaway three-pointer in triple coverage.

  21. AYC Says:

    Anon, you're right about the dataset being small... if we just look at the final 24 seconds, or final 5 minutes. I think it would be useful to look at stats for the 4th quarter in its entirety tho; IMO, that 12 mpg is large enough sample to draw worthwhile conclusions. We sometimes see 4th quarter ppg mentioned, but usually not assists, TO's, or shooting efficiency. Maybe somebody could track 4thQ ORtg and OWS/48?

  22. robinred Says:

    82games.COM 10-11 clutch stats.

    4th quarter or overtime, less than 5 minutes left, neither team ahead by more than 5 points/per 48 MINUTES

    PTS/AST/FG% WITH RANKINGS

    BRYANT 53.3(1)/8.9 (8)/.385 (LOW)
    GINOBILI 40.8 (T11)/5.6/.385
    ROSE 40.8 (T11)/9.4 (7)/.396
    RONDO 15.5/17.9 (1)/.500
    PIERCE 30.5/7.2/.474
    MARTIN 40.6 (T12)/0.0 (NO AST)/.500
    JAMES 40.6 (T12)/3.5/.333
    PAUL 27.2/11.1 (5)/.395

    Only 2 nonPGs in Top 15 in AST are Bryant and Paul Pierce.

  23. robinred Says:

    The chart I got that from has sortable data based on the criteria above. Easy to find at 82ganes.com.

  24. huevonkiller Says:

    #Ed

    Well Ed, I'm not sorry to be a jerk, and I don't give a damn what GMs think qualifies as crunch time.

    I care what 82games qualifies as crunch time a hell of a lot more than whatever you or GMs say.

  25. huevonkiller Says:

    I don't mind if people want to know who is good in the last 24 seconds of a close game.

    But redefine what clutch means, and provide me with a larger and equally important sample size. That's the purpose Abbot serves. First, to put biased Laker fans in their place, and secondly it should be to more accurately depict crunch time.

  26. huevonkiller Says:

    #7

    Yeah I can see what you're saying, although Kobe might be a little bit better than you suggest, compared to Wade for example.

    I'm going by 09-10 data (not career), but yeah usually there are a couple of other players you probably want over Bryant.

    Playing more or less minutes per game probably has an affect on "clutch" production. I'd estimate that getting more rest at the start of the fourth quarter overstates Clutch production. So that should be taken into account.

  27. nimble Says:

    sigh..

    haters are gonna always hate.There's no other 'advanced' explanation.Kobe is one of the best to ever play basketball,simple and solid.

  28. AYC Says:

    Thanks Robinred. Of the 14 players averaging better than 40pts/48, Kobe is next to last in FG%; only Lebron is worse. Dirk has the best offensive stats; second to Kobe with 50.5 p/48, while shooting 60% from the field. When you look at the previous 3 years, Lebron has the best stats, but Kobe's are better than this year too.

  29. Baseballhead Says:

    Reposted (with minor edits) from the giant ongoing basketball thread over at the Baseball Think Factory (yeah, I know):

    I listened to this. Abbott kept referring to Martin as "one of the most efficient scorers in the history of the NBA". Abbott, if you didn't know, is a bit WoW fan, so you can understand why he'd be enamored with Martin's efficiency. When the host Ryen Russillo challenged him on this, citing stuff like the ability to create your own shots at the end of the game, Abbott stuck hard to the numbers. Abbott obviously knows basketball, but I'm not sure he understands the limits of the stats he's quoting.

    Abbott hates the end-of-game isolation plays that have become the new normal — he said so repeatedly on the podcast. Teams that shoot best in those situations, Abbott claims, run actual basketball plays to free guys up. (I haven't looked, but I have no reason to believe he's wrong about this.) Teams that go iso (which is every team with a star player on the perimeter or a fast point guard) are almost guaranteed to get a poor look because the players are being asked to make something out of nothing because they're going either force up a challenged jumper from long range, or they're going to drive and have the defense collapse on them, leaving them with either a difficult pass or a more difficult shot. It's no wonder Bryant, et al, shoot much worse than average in those situations.

    However, Kevin Martin shoots 50% in clutch time, as defined by 82games.com, which is the number Abbott's looking at. That's amazing… except the context of the play is completely different. On the Rockets, Martin isn't given the ball to create at the end of games, Aaron Brooks is. The Rockets don't run iso plays in those situations, they run plays to free up either Martin or Scola. From the numbers, when Martin and Scola score in those situations, at least two-thirds of the time it's via an assist — someone's given them a look at the basket. For Bryant, that's only true 20% of the time. Lebron James is at 12%. Chris Paul, 13%. Derrick Rose, 19%. You get the picture. Those guys have to make their own looks, and they all shoot a lower crunch time percentage than Martin.

    So Abbott's both right and wrong. He's right that Martin is a terrificly efficient scorer in crunch time. He's completely wrong to say that the context in which Martin is scoring is the same as that of Bryant or any of the other iso guys. Moreover, someone like Bryant also gets to the line nearly 50% more often than Martin does in those situations; gotta be some value in that, right? On top of that, you can also kick out and assist in a basket. The only none-point guard who ranks in the top ten in doing that? That's right, Kobe Bryant at #8. How often has Martin assisted in a crunch time basket so far this season? You guessed it: zero.

    I guess if you want to call Bryant a "ball hog" like Abbott does, then at least be the ball hog with five rings, am I right? The end-of-game isolations aren't a matter of players being selfish so much as coaching. I'm sure that's exactly what Bryant wants to do, but it's also what Phil Jackson wants to do, too, because he's run that Archangel bailout play for about two decades now. It's hard for me to pin the fault for this on the players.

  30. robinred Says:

    @25

    Sure. And I'll stop by from time to time to keep arrogant HaterBoys like yourself in their place as well, as well as to keep Paine honest. A lot of Celtics' fans with big megaphones around the net these days. Also, "Abbott" has two T's.

    A lot of people have pointed out that larger data slices would be more useful in a discussion like this. Abbott noted that in passing but went with this data because it suited his thesis and agenda better.

  31. robinred Says:

    @28,

    Sure, but compare Dirk's % of assisted baskets with those of the wings/points, as noted in #29. Different context. To be clear:

    1. I am a Laker fan.
    2. I am not arguing that Kobe is wonderful and mystical in the clutch. He's not. He's just another guy. Abbott's piece, for all its slants and faults, is right about that.

    The real issue here is using the data to examine how teams approach these situations, and whether it should be changed.

  32. robinred Says:

    Bryant 82games.com clutch numbers, last four years:

    PTS RANK/AST/FG%

    2007/8
    51.8 (2)/6.0/.448

    2008/9
    56.7 (1)/5.7/.457

    2009/10
    51.2 (2)/3.6/.444

    2010/11
    53.3 (1)/8.9 (8)/.395

  33. AYC Says:

    #29, Abbott quotes Phil Jackson as complaining about Kobe ignoring the game plan in late game situations; should we blame bad playcalling when a star player refuses to listen to his coach? I think you're absolutely right about Martin, tho.

    #31, Dirk has 33% of his clutch baskets assisted; that's not that much higher than Kobe. Also, relative to his shot attempts, Kobe's assist production isn't much higher than Dirk's. Kobe is first on the list in both FGA and FTA. If we count a FGA as one shooting possession, and FTA as half a possession, Kobe averages 48.1 shooting possessions per 48min. Dirk is at 36.2 poss/48. Dirk's % of assists relative to shots is 14.1%; Kobe's is 18.5%.

  34. Anon Says:

    "A lot of people have pointed out that larger data slices would be more useful in a discussion like this. Abbott noted that in passing but went with this data because it suited his thesis and agenda better."

    Keep in mind though that it's in response to the legions of Kobe Bryant fans who claim he is the "undisputed champ" of the clutch.

    And still do.

  35. robinred Says:

    @31

    % of assisted baskets in c-time

    07/8

    Dirk: 45%
    Kobe 23%

    08/9
    Dirk: 41%
    Kobe: 15%

    09/10
    Dirk: 54%
    Kobe: 18%

    This year, like Kobe's high AST totals, appears to be something of an outlier so far. Another way to look at it is to sort the numbers by assists and look for "Kidd." None of which is to say Dirk is not a great option in the 4th; he is. But he's a different type of player.

    As to the Phil point, your response, and Abbott's thesis, demonstrate one of the problems with Kobe discussions. It is not that you are wrong necessarily, but even if we assume that Kobe is "refusing to listen", then that is both Jackson's and Bryant's fault--not just Bryant's. If, in fact, Phil wants to do something different, there is not much evidence, as Baseballhead suggests, to show that is true and Phil has been coaching for 22 years now.

  36. robinred Says:

    Keep in mind though that it's in response to the legions of Kobe Bryant fans who claim he is the "undisputed champ" of the clutch.

    _________________________________________________

    Well, according to Abbott, it was a response to GM, coaches, and player polls. I pissed someone off at another site when I said that Abbott posted this on the Friday of the dead late Jan. football weekend with the Celtics coming to LA to get page hits. Last I checked, the piece had drawn 2,888 comments, and Abbott's True Hoop posts usually are at around 5. If Abbott is interested in improving the dialogue with Kobe Fans, then writing, "That, my friends, is a ball hog" is not the way to go. If he is interested in page hits and poking the big the purple-and-gold internet hornets' nest, it is.

  37. Neil Paine Says:

    #29 - I agree that the lower league average on final possessions could be an indictment of coaching as much as anything else. In addition to the clutch numbers, 82games also provides us evidence that more ball movement leads to more points per possession:

    http://www.82games.com/dribbles.htm

    So why, in the most important possession of the game, do coaches insist on running plays that deliberately contain less ball movement?

    I would imagine it's a matter of trust and responsibility. In a crucial situation, it seems intuitive to give the ball to your best player, the guy you trust the most. And more importantly, nobody can blame the coach for doing this. Give the ball to Kobe on a clearout and he misses, the coach isn't going to get singled out for the blame. But run an x's & o's play with a lot of ball movement, and that opens the coach up to criticism if it fails.

  38. P Middy Says:

    Here's another thing to consider. Refs tend to swallow their whistles on the last play. Things like successfully running a play and getting a shot off are tougher to do.

  39. Nick Says:

    #29 "However, Kevin Martin shoots 50% in clutch time, as defined by 82games.com, which is the number Abbott's looking at. That's amazing… except the context of the play is completely different."

    Except it really isn't different, and that's Abbott's entire point: Kobe takes utterly terrible shots at the end of games. Martin only takes shots he's likely to make. How they got the shot is irrelevant. Kobe shoots when he should be passing, while Martin is being passed to when he has a good shot opportunity.

  40. Anon Says:

    Even so Robinred, I don't think that leaving that sentence out would make them more willing to listen. These fans have their own agenda: keep Kobe above the rest of his peers at all times. Evidence to the contrary be damned.

    Remember, in the minds of these guys, writing anything negative about Bryant (as if it's negative in the first place!) is either being a "stat nerd" or a "Kobe hater". So Abbott isn't exactly speaking to an objective audience in the first place in the page comments.

  41. Anon Says:

    "Except it really isn't different, and that's Abbott's entire point: Kobe takes utterly terrible shots at the end of games."

    Not even sure how you could use the usage/efficiency effect here, since they're usually the last possession of games. Maybe shooting it early and giving your teammates a chance to tip in the miss?

  42. Baseballhead Says:

    "Kobe takes utterly terrible shots at the end of games. Martin only takes shots he's likely to make. How they got the shot is irrelevant."

    That's a mistake — it absolutely matters how you get that look, because the "how" is a major factor in just how good a look your guy is getting. If you're going to ignore the context of the shot, then I believe you completely miss the forest for the trees. Purely anecdotal, but my observation is that when the Lakers call timeout before a final shot and draw up a play, Bryant seems perfectly willing to run that play (probably because the play usually calls for him to shoot the ball). It's when the Lakers take the ball down in flow that they seem to automatically spread the floor for a Bryant iso.

    Neil in #37 and P Middy in #38 make good points, too. Those factors, and Bryant's own reputation and scoring ability, make giving him the ball in iso at the end of the game seem like a perfectly reasonable proposition. Martin is never put in that same end-of-game situation and isn't asked to create scoring situations for himself or others — comparing what Martin does to what Bryant does is like comparing apples to oranges.

    Keep in mind though that it's in response to the legions of Kobe Bryant fans who claim he is the "undisputed champ" of the clutch.

    Fans will be fans, and we shouldn't be surprised when most of them react emotionally instead of rationally. It's fun to point to that irrational emotion as an indictment of the player or the team, but it doesn't add anything to an argument.

  43. huevonkiller Says:

    #30

    There is no "hating" anywhere in my recent comments in this thread, in fact I just defended Bryant slightly in a previous post.

    It just seems amusing to me you're relying on a half-season's worth of "clutch data". I don't think it means anything, and the lower minutes per game probably keeps Kobe fresher at the end anyway. 33 Minutes per game.

    Paine, already proved himself long ago during Kobe's prime. I don't have to wait to see anything else.

  44. huevonkiller Says:

    By the way, the clutch list on 82games.com is outdated.

    Go to the individual player pages to see a more updated version. I'm curious to see the next updates as well, the Heat have improved.

    #40

    You're completely right, good way of summarizing the main point.

  45. Baseballhead Says:

    In today's Celtics-Lakers game just before halftime, Bryant got subbed in with under 20 seconds left after a tech. No time to draw a play. What do the Lakers do? They give the ball the Bryant, and set up at the corners with Bryant iso up top. Bryant directs traffic, pointing here and there. Eventually, they run baseline, and give him a high pick. Bryant goes into the paint, draws a whistle, two points.

    When have we seen Kevin Martin do that? Kevin Martin never has to do that. We should take these situation differences into account when we look at clutch numbers.

  46. Akg Says:

    "In today's Celtics-Lakers game just before halftime, Bryant got subbed in with under 20 seconds left after a tech. No time to draw a play. What do the Lakers do? They give the ball the Bryant, and set up at the corners with Bryant iso up top. Bryant directs traffic, pointing here and there. Eventually, they run baseline, and give him a high pick. Bryant goes into the paint, draws a whistle, two points.

    When have we seen Kevin Martin do that? Kevin Martin never has to do that. We should take these situation differences into account when we look at clutch numbers."

    Completely agreed... Clutch is highly dependent on context. Some players are given the task of directing the entire team, while some are just there as set shooters. Players like Bryant, James, Wade, etc get more attention than the rest of them. They take their shots in different situations. Some direct the offense and others are set up waiting for the ball. If I recall correctly, up to 2009; Travis Outlaw had hit something like 80% of his clutch shots. Really, it doesn't make him more clutch than a player like Kobe, Lebron or whomever.

    I do agree that the premise behind the article may have good intentions, but it's just highly suspect and is bordering on hate. I believe this is the 3rd or 4th time they've posted about Kobe's 'fictious' clutchness.

  47. JTaylor21 Says:

    See in todays Mia vs Okc, LeBron displayed perfect clutch ability in my eyes even though many people, Jon Barry included were questioning him for passing up a good look to a player (EHouse) who was completely uncovered. That is what being "clutch" is all about, doing what ever it takes to win a game and not going for the glory shot. Everyone knows damn well that if that was Kobe would have taken the shot without even blinking.

  48. Baseballhead Says:

    Everyone knows damn well that if that was Kobe would have taken the shot without even blinking.

    Bryant's got a higher assist percentage in those situations this season, but if you insist "everyone knows damn well", then I'm not going to bother trying convince you otherwise. I'll just point out that if James HAD passed out to the open man, his clutch shooting percentage would be a little lower than it is right now, which would have hurt James in the eyes of someone like Abbott.

  49. kevin Says:

    I am curious to hear how the people here view Kobe's performance yesterday.

    He shot very well. He made 16 of 29 FG attempts, inclduing 3 of 5 from the 3-point line, and made 6 of 7 free throws. However, he had no assists, no blocks, no steals, only 3 rebounds and 5 fouls. Allen and Pierce, the guys Kobe tends to cover, both had outstanding shooting performances. Kobe took over 40% of his teams shots. After drawing within 4 with around 5 and a half minutes left, Kobe missed several shots and committed and offenseve foul. Most of his shot attempts, of course, were off the dribble, and not the result of set plays where a pass (and by extension, the involvement of at least one other teammate) was necessary.

    It seems to me the Lakers are rather dysfunctional right now. I think Phil has 1 foot out the door and has begun to distance himself from trying to get Kobe to play disciplined, team basketball. The comment by Phil about a month ago, that Kobe "wrecked the offense" I think reflects a bad karma on the team. The rest of the players seem to be going through the motions when Kobe has the ball, knowing he's just going to jack it up, and so have stpooed moving on offense. It's especially noticable with Odom and Gasol. I couldn't help notice the look of contempt Odom shot Kobe after he made that bad foul on Davis at the end of the half. Kobe scolded him about it and Odom shot him that look like "Eff you. You've been f***ing us up all year". Gasol seems to be sleep walking through long stretches and seems to have lost interest.

    They better get this straightened out soon or they're going to lose in the 1st round. The Lakers cannot win with Kobe taking 40% of the shots.

  50. Baseballhead Says:

    The Lakers cannot win with Kobe taking 40% of the shots.

    Excuse me? Two consecutive championships, three consecutive Finals of the exact same offense, and "The Lakers cannot win with Kobe taking 40% of the shots"?

    Some fans DO have an agenda based on keeping Bryant at the top of the list. Other fans, they have the opposite agenda. Take the 3rd quarter. Bryant plays the whole quarter takes seven shots, 2-3 from the arc, and goes 3-7. More important to this argument, though, is that from from the 11:10 mark to the 2:49 mark of the 3rd, Bryant only takes two shots, and in that stretch, the rest of the Lakers make exactly two baskets. Bynum, Gasol, Fisher, Odom and Walton go 2-9 in the quarter as the Lakers try — and fail — to run the triangle against Boston.

    I understand that for some people, like Kevin (whom I'm familiar with), it's not enough to say that the Celtics are better team than the Lakers this year, or that Boston's defense did a terrific job of breaking the triangle. Laker losses MUST be Kobe Bryant's fault, there must be some fatal flaw in his character that poisons his team. Odom and Gasol don't play defense? Bryant's fault for being mean to them. Gasol can't just have a bad game, he has to have "lost interest". The Celtics make 8 of their last 9 shots? Somehow, some way, it must be Kobe Bryant's fault.

    #48 is the type of blind "analysis" that Abbott engaged in his his column. What is the context of plays in the discussion? Who is being asked to do what, and how much? When you start ignoring situational factors, you end up making stupid arguments like "Kevin Martin is more clutch than Lebron James" or "Kobe Bryant is the reason the Lakers can't win (two championships aside)."

  51. kevin Says:

    "I understand that for some people, like Kevin (whom I'm familiar with), it's not enough to say that the Celtics are better team than the Lakers this year, or that Boston's defense did a terrific job of breaking the triangle."

    Well, that's nice but I didn't comment or opine on any of those things. I restricted my comment to Bryant. This has nothing to do with the Celtics. Or the Spurs and heat, for that matter. It has to do with Kobe, and his penchant of insisting on being a one man band from time to time. And how that "screws up the offense", in Phil's words.

    Could you please stick to what I did say instead of putting words in my mouth and commenting on that? Or instead of projecting what you imagine I might say, comment on what I actually did say and the point I actually made rather than the one you propose in your own mind what I might be making instead?

    So I'll ask again. Everyone is focusing on the 41 points but nobody has focused on the no-show in every other facet. Do you think Kobe played a good game of basketball yesterday? I mean, he scored more points than Pierce, and many more than Allen. Do you think he played a better game of basketball than Pierce and Allen, for example?

  52. huevonkiller Says:

    #48 Well seeing as he was focusing on their entire careers probably, he's still right.

    The main purpose of Abbots article, was also to mention that going by whatever barometer, Kobe's not the best clutch player. That's the main point and all that matters.

  53. Anon Says:

    Kevin, how are you going to have issue with Kobe during a run in the fourth quarter when he played 48 minutes of great basketball offensively? He kept his team in the game with his output, when he and his team yielded a billion points on the other end.

    Nitpicking at its finest.

  54. huevonkiller Says:

    That said, Kobe is more complete than Kevin martin and he's most likely a better player to have in virtually any situation. So I can't concur with Abbot on that point.

  55. Anon Says:

    "#48 is the type of blind "analysis" that Abbott engaged in his his column. What is the context of plays in the discussion? Who is being asked to do what, and how much? When you start ignoring situational factors, you end up making stupid arguments like "Kevin Martin is more clutch than Lebron James" or "Kobe Bryant is the reason the Lakers can't win (two championships aside)."

    I think what this shows more than anything else is that alot of players are capable of making a GW shot whether it's assisted or not. Sure, I'm all for giving the ball to my best playmaker to create a shot, but the "myth of the MJ legend" (that people still subscribe to today) leads people to think that stars HAVE to take that shot no matter what - if you don't, you're a wuss. It's not exactly sound strategy and makes your team predictable offensively.

    Draw up a play, put the ball in the hands of your playmakers, and whoever is open should shoot it.

  56. kevin Says:

    "Kevin, how are you going to have issue with Kobe during a run in the fourth quarter when he played 48 minutes of great basketball offensively? He kept his team in the game with his output, when he and his team yielded a billion points on the other end."

    First, he didn't play great offensive basketball. He had zero assists for the entire game. And I don't see those two separate observations as unrelated, the volume shooting ont he part of Kobe and the bad team defense. Kobe seemingly spent all his energy on the offense end and the Boston 1/2/3 positions all went off. No blocks, no steals, 3 rebounds and 5 personals for Kobe?

    We'll never know what the outcome would have been if Kobe had involved his teammates instead of taking all the shots himself. I didn't see the game because I was driving but listened to the last 8 minutes or so on the radio and it was hard to tell if anyone besides Kobe touched the ball. Kobe did make some shots but here's what happened on all the Laker possessions the last five minutes until the game was over:

    04:41 Bryant Jump Shot: Missed
    04:09 Bryant Pullup Bank shot: Missed
    03:48 [LAL 89-98] Bryant Jump Shot: Made (39 PTS)
    03:20 Bryant Jump Shot: Missed
    02:55 Bryant Foul : Offensive Charge (5 PF)
    02:55 Bryant Turnover : Foul (2 TO)
    02:25 [LAL 91-103] Bryant Jump Shot: Made (41 PTS)
    01:58 Blake Rebound (Off:0 Def:3)
    01:46 Bryant Jump Shot: Missed
    01:44 Gasol Rebound (Off:4 Def:3)
    01:44 Gasol Tip Shot: Missed

    At that point, the game was over. They were losing by 14 with a minute and half left. The Lakers failed to stop the Celtics on almost every possession down the stretch. So, between 5:20, when the Lakers were down 4, to 1:29, when they were down 14, Kobe shot the ball 6 times, making 2, committed one turnover, an offensive foul, and really did nothing else to help his team.

    As I said, I was listening on the radio and all I heard was the name Bryant when the Lakers had the ball. I knew they would lose if Kobe took all the shots. Kobe is not a one-man team.

    After the game, Freddie Coleman was basically saying the same thing on ESPN radio. Kobe is too old to take over games now. He can't expend that much energy on the offensive end without having to pay the price at the other end. He's not Ray Allen, where he runs off picks and spots up. All his offense he starts himself off the dribble. He could save his energy by passing to a teammate once in a while but he seems reluctant to do that. And it has unfportunate consequences for the Lakers. The team looks somewhat dysfunctional right now. They fell apart down the stretch yesterday and lost to lowly Sac-town at home the night before. They aren't going to get out of this funk until they start sharing the ball more. And Kobe is at the heart of that problem.

  57. Jason J Says:

    My take on why Carmelo ranked so high on this list, and I had the same impression when I first saw on 82games a few years ago that he was the top of the heap, is that his game doesn't change in crunch time. He always takes the same shots. Maybe from deeper, but basically he's in the same iso set.

    Kobe (and most other players) change from their normal movement and attack games to iso jumpshooter mode (particularly obvious of James who isn't that type of player for most of the game). It takes the team out of its game and gives the advantage to the defense. Not so with Melo since George Karl's team game is basically a series of isos anyway.

  58. Baseballhead Says:

    We'll never know what the outcome would have been if Kobe had involved his teammates instead of taking all the shots himself.

    That's false; we DO know because that's what happened for a 9 minute stretch in the 3rd quarter: nothing. The Lakers struggled to get their shot off against a stifling defense, their passing lanes were closed, and they couldn't find their way inside. Van Gundy and Jackson on the TV-cast pointed out over and over that the Laker bigs were being beaten down court both ways.

    Moreover, from the 5:03 mark:
    5:03 Kevin Garnett makes 18-foot two point shot (Paul Pierce assists)
    4:28 Glen Davis makes layup (plus one free throw)
    4:03 Kevin Garnett makes 2-foot two point shot (Rajon Rondo assists)
    3:11 Ray Allen makes 24-foot three point jumper (Rajon Rondo assists)
    2:41 Ray Allen makes 18-foot two point shot (Rajon Rondo assists)

    5-for-5 shooting while Bryant went cold, and Boston was after shooting 56% up to that point. Where's the defense? Is that Bryant's fault that his big guys were getting beat? Because we saw in Game 7 of the Finals that the other Lakers are perfectly capable of playing Championship-caliber defense even when Bryant's ice cold. Gasol missed a grip of open jumpers. Artest was 1-10, Fisher went 1-6, and both guys got killed in their match-ups. The Lakers were out-rebounded 43-30. Their opponent shot over 60% from the field. There's plenty of people to blame... and of course Kevin wants to blame the guy who scored 41 points on 29 shots. Maybe if someone hits a open jumper, Bryant gets a few assists. Context. Game situations. Stop ignoring them.

    A previous commenter was right, there ARE guys who's agenda in threads is to pump up Kobe Bryant. And then there are others — like Kevin — who's agenda in threads is to try and bury him. The fact that the Lakers have won two titles and been in three straight Finals running this exact offense should have put this type of criticism to bed, but I guess you can't ask fans of opposing teams to be rational about this stuff.

  59. Jason J Says:

    @ #5 - Didn't Mike have an Air Jordan commercial in his last season where he told us how many times he'd missed a last second shot? The message was that failures can lead to success.

    I can think of 3 missed game winners and missed assist (if there is such a thing) for MJ.

    1) In the series against Cleveland in the game prior to the shot, MJ had a chance to put Chicago up or tie it (can't remember anymore) with two free throws and missed them both. If he hits them, either there's no game 5 or there's an overtime and maybe no game 5.

    2) Game 1 against the Lakers in 1991 Finals he crossed up the defense and got a clean look at a 17 footer that rimmed out.

    3) 1998 ECFs after Reggie hit the "shove Jordan in the chest with two hands after getting a running start and then get behind the line" game winning 3, Jordan had a chance to answer and had a rimout on a long sideways release from behind the arc.

    The assist came in a Pacers game I happened to be at in 1998 while Pippen was still on the IR. MJ dragged the Chicago within 2 or 3 (can't recall) and in the closing seconds drew a double and hit Kukoc for a wide open elbow extended 3 pointer. No good.

  60. kevin Says:

    "Is that Bryant's fault that his big guys were getting beat?"

    It was Kobe's man who made 2 of those 5 baskets. He was probably so tired from driving one-on-one he had nothing left for defense. C'mon, 3 rebounds? No steals? No blocks?

    Of course the Lakers played bad defense. And Kobe was right there, playing as bad defense as anyone.

    "A previous commenter was right, there ARE guys who's agenda in threads is to pump up Kobe Bryant."

    Yup. And it looks like you're one of them. And I came neither to bury nor to praise Kobe. I'm merely pointing out what Phil Jackson himself pointed out a few weeks ago- Kobe has a tendency to go off and play the game by himself. The last two games are both illustrations of that. Freddie Coleman pointed out something on ESPN last night- in games where Kobe has taken at least 405 of the Lakers FG attempts, they are 3-7.

    I will concede you one point. The Lakers bigs played like they were disheartened. I think there's some dissention going on, between the coach and the team and between some of the teammates themselves. But I think Kobe has a part to do with that too. Nobody wants to hustle to get open if he isn't going to have the ball passed to him. And the lack of movement tends to carry over on defense. Passing the ball has merits other than if it directly leads to a basket.

  61. Baseballhead Says:

    It was Kobe's man who made 2 of those 5 baskets. He was probably so tired from driving one-on-one he had nothing left for defense.

    That's what help defense is for. Then again, the normal rules of basketball don't seem to apply to Kobe Bryant, at least not from a Celtic perspective. Neil's comments on the game more than cover the bases.

    Your a Boston fan who hate the Lakers, and you hate Kobe Bryant in particular; you've made that very clear over the years. Don't pretend you don't have an agenda — you've insisted for years on the other site, and now on here, that the Lakers can't win with Kobe Bryant being Kobe Bryant. For all the sturm und drang over the selfish, destructive, poisonous Kobe Bryant and his ball-hogging, non-clutch ways, he's the MVP of two straight championship teams and been to three straight Finals — and after all that, you're still peddling the same exact arguments you were peddling last year, and the year before last. If he's the problem with the Lakers, every team should have that problem.

  62. Baseballhead Says:

    And now I realize I've dragged dirty laundry from elsewhere into here. Apologies, folks. I'm away from the thread.

  63. KevinG Says:

    And you're a LA fan who loves the Lakers and loves Kobe in particular.

    So I guess that makes us even.

  64. KevinG Says:

    "Kobe Bryant and his ball-hogging, non-clutch ways, he's the MVP of two straight championship teams and been to three straight Finals"

    Kobe won the MVP awards for the same reason Derek Jeter won Gold Glove awards.

  65. huevonkiller Says:

    Well I don't like the Lakers and I don't think Kobe proved anything the last two years, but you're getting a little carried away. If you're ignorantly going to blame Kobe when he loses, do you also ignorantly credit him when he wins? Use your own logic Kevin. Btw KG is probably a lot more obnoxious.

    The Lakers need to defend better, I doubt Kobe was horrible enough on defense to offset the Lakers very successful offensive rating against Boston.

    Maybe if Phil Jackson would stop ignorantly using Fisher and his terrible defense? He's not good anymore...

    As for being successful in crunch time, most superstars seem to have great success according to 82games.com

    Overall this crunchtime discussion is nonsense. Just take the guy that's the better player, and if he rests enough in the fourth, he's probably a great "crunch time" player. Not like you should be saving someone for just the fourth quarter either.

  66. Cort Says:

    i bet larry bird's crunch-time shooting pct. is higher than anyone on the list. end of game free throws should also be included somehow in the analysis...