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Boxscore Breakdown: Kobe vs. LeBron, Round 2

Posted by Neil Paine on February 9, 2009

The last time Kobe Bryant's Lakers faced LeBron James' Cavaliers, L.A. came out on top with a 17-point victory at home. On Sunday, the two teams went head-to-head again in the final matchup of the season series, and this time the game would be staged on King James' home court, where Cleveland had not lost all season. But would the outcome be any different the second time around?

4 Factors  Pts Poss eFG%  TOr  OR%  FTr  ORtg  xRtg  +/-
LA Lakers  101  85  50.6  7.0 30.8 13.6 118.6 108.6 10.0
Cleveland   91  85  45.4 10.6 33.3 13.8 106.9 111.4 -4.6
Player           Tm   Pos  Min Poss PProd ORtg  %Pos DRtg Floor% Stops Stop%
Lamar Odom       LAL  PF    38 19.1 26.0 136.0  28.4 104.2 0.678   7.9 0.584
Luke Walton      LAL  SF    30  6.6  8.0 121.4  12.4 117.5 0.543   3.1 0.287
Pau Gasol        LAL  PF    44 16.4 20.5 125.0  21.0 104.7 0.620   8.9 0.571
Kobe Bryant      LAL  SG    35 15.9 16.2 102.4  25.6 111.3 0.493   5.3 0.424
Derek Fisher     LAL  PG    28  7.8 11.2 143.0  15.7 104.6 0.631   5.7 0.573
Jordan Farmar    LAL  PG    20  5.9  3.8  64.8  16.6 104.8 0.318   4.0 0.570
Trevor Ariza     LAL  SF    18  5.6  5.8 104.2  17.4 111.1 0.518   2.7 0.429
Sasha Vujacic    LAL  SG    13  3.4  4.2 122.1  14.8 115.3 0.606   1.6 0.336
Josh Powell      LAL  PF    10  4.2  3.7  88.3  23.5 113.0 0.439   1.4 0.387
Chris Mihm       LAL   C     4  0.0  0.0   0.0   0.0  72.7 0.000   1.8 1.286
Ben Wallace      CLE  PF    17  3.6  3.7 101.1  12.1 105.2 0.471   4.5 0.751
LeBron James     CLE  SF    40 21.4 22.0 102.7  30.2 121.9 0.466   4.9 0.345
Z. Ilgauskas     CLE   C    34 16.8 20.2 120.5  27.8 118.9 0.596   5.0 0.418
Mo Williams      CLE  PG    42 16.5 16.5  99.9  22.2 120.9 0.412   5.5 0.368
Sasha Pavlovic   CLE  SG    12  1.9  2.2 118.2   8.9 113.6 0.473   2.3 0.546
Wally Szczerbiak CLE  SG    34  7.7 11.7 152.5  12.7 123.1 0.580   3.8 0.316
Anderson Varejao CLE   C    26  6.4  6.1  95.5  13.8 114.9 0.439   4.8 0.516
Daniel Gibson    CLE  PG    24  5.8  4.4  76.8  13.5 117.8 0.310   3.8 0.445
J.J. Hickson     CLE  PF    11  3.6  1.5  41.6  18.4 126.4 0.183   0.9 0.237

In keeping with most of the big Laker games we've covered in our "Boxscore Breakdown" series (the only exception being his 61-point outburst vs. New York), the ailing Kobe Bryant was held under his usual production levels (117.1/31.2/107.2 going into the game) as the opponent devoted a significant amount of their defensive resources to shutting down L.A.'s megastar. He scored 19 points and made a few big shots -- especially a high-arcing fadeaway over James in the 4th -- but for the most part Cleveland made a determined effort to keep Bryant away from the immediate basket area (he took 5 shots in the paint and drew only 3 FTAs) and force the other Lakers to do something with the ball (Bryant actually touched the ball in a reasonable attacking position roughly the same number of times as Luke Walton and Jordan Farmar!).

Of course, while this approach has been good for keeping Kobe in check, it has not been so good for defeating the Lakers. With so much of the Cavs' attention focused on #24, Pau Gasol continued his monster season with a double-double and a 125.0 ORtg against the NBA's 2nd-best defense, and Lamar Odom dominated the 3rd quarter en route to a huge 28-point, 17-rebound game. It's always a game of pick your poison with the Lakers -- leave Bryant to his own devices, and he'll go off like he did against the Knicks; single-mindedly focus on stopping Kobe, and his teammates will destroy you. Suffice to say that there are no easy answers to the question of beating L.A.

As for Cleveland, LeBron was also held well below his season numbers (120.0/34.8/98.4), but the differences between Bryant and James on Sunday were defense and the fact that the former's teammates picked up the offensive slack, while latter's did not. Zydrunas Ilgauskas had a good game and Wally Szczerbiak shot well off the bench, but the rest of LeBron's supporting wasn't nearly as effective as Kobe's: on 69 possessions, Bryant's teammates posted an offensive rating of 120.6, while James' teammates came up with a rating of 106.6 on 62 possessions.

That also speaks to Cleveland's defensive issues. Given their defensive stats against the league all season, we would have expected the Lakers to put together these "4 factors" numbers against them:

eFG% TOr  OR%  FTr  ORtg
48.6 15.1 28.5 25.4 108.6

Instead, the Lakers were better than expected in every category but free throw rate (and neither team drew an inordinate amount of fouls). In fact, they were dramatically better at avoiding turnovers. Odom, Jordan Farmar, & Luke Walton, three of the team's biggest TO offenders this season, combined for just 3 miscues against Cleveland, and the Cavs were only able to force 6 total turnovers. James was held without a steal, and Cleveland was generally unable to get the stops they needed all game long.

Meanwhile, the Lakers continue rolling, even without Andrew Bynum. They've won 10 of their last 11 and 6 straight, including back-to-back wins at Boston and Cleveland, two teams (along with Orlando) considered their most likely opponents should they reach the NBA Finals again this summer. And once again, they did it without Bryant at his best. As of right now, if the Lakers aren't the favorites to hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy come June, then I don't know who is.

9 Responses to “Boxscore Breakdown: Kobe vs. LeBron, Round 2”

  1. steve norris Says:

    until james can shoot 80% from ft and 35% from 3 point he wont be better than kobe. if he does....watchout.

  2. DWarner Says:

    The 2 games LA and Cleveland have played this year may be helping LeBrons cause for MVP believe it or not. Although he has played poorly in both outings, Kobe hasn't been able to seize the day with a Kobe-esque breakout game to pull the momentum into his favor. The All Star Game is a clear indicator that people believe Kobe's teammates are superior to LeBrons. In both games, these teammates did the bulk of the work in the individual match-ups seeing Gasol dominating with 11-13 fg in the 1st and Odom having a career type night in the 2nd. The fact that Kobes teammates carried the day in the head to head and are regular contributors negate from his MVP status, whereas LeBron, seemingly to many,stands alone in wins and losses. If the Cavs have the best record in the conference, division, or league at voting time, Mr. James should be taking home the hardware...

  3. Yocar Says:

    DWarner, kobe won both games and the lakers ended the 23 home win streak the cavs had!!! i think lebron is gonna have to lift his team to the best record in the league or else the MVP is kobe's to lose. lebron proved one thing in both games against the lakers....his jumper needs a lot of work.

  4. LmNo Says:

    How would the 2 losses help Lebron's cause when BOTH of his games were pitiful?
    Kobe wasn't able to "seize the day" because during one game he dislocated his finger and the other he had the flu.
    We're so quick to say that Lebron has no help when he loses, but complain when his teammates aren't voted all-stars when he wins. It just seems like people love to make excuses for the guy.

  5. Jose Says:

    People make excuses for Kobe too, LmNo. Like putting all the blame on Lamar Odom when the entire team didn't rise to the occasion during the 2008 NBA Finals. When the Lakers win, it's because Kobe guided them to victory. When they lose, it's someone else's fault because Odom didn't show up, the bench is inconsistent, Fisher is too old, Gasol is too soft, you name it. It's only now that people are truly recognizing the abilities of his teammates.

    That being said, I believe Kobe has the better teammates. (although the Cavs were missing Delonte) The Laker wins over Cleveland AND Boston (all nine points in the overtime were scored by Gasol and Odom) have proven that. Cleveland just couldn't buy a bucket in the second half (they reverted to their poor offensive ways from last season), but letting Odom get so many easy shots at the rim was a killer, and a poor game from Lebron spelled doom for them.

    So the reason that Lebron is still the leading MVP candidate is because he has to carry more of the load in order for his team to do well, and when they do well, they're good enough to challenge the best teams in the league. (that last part is why Paul and Wade, who similarly carry a huge load for their teams, won't challenge for MVP unless their teams can place among the top teams in the league by the end of the season) Kobe has to be able to close games, which is very important, but he doesn't have to play great for them to beat the best teams. That's what makes the Lakers tough to deal with. They can win with more of a margin for error than the other top teams.

    From the wins since losing Bynum, I'd say that Gasol has been the best (the most consistent) player. He's proving that his selection as All-Star reserve was well-earned for sure.

  6. rmj Says:

    You know folks.., there is a very big defirence in the line up of both lakers and cavaliers bcoz in terms of the guards, cavaliers have a very good guards naming williams and gibson comparing to fisher which is old and farmar who was still discovering himself, that is a big factor in the cavaliers team..., in terms of center, gasol is more dominant that ilguaskas, but the thing is ilgauskas is an all star last year that means his very good at his position, then pau is not way ahead better than ilgauskas it just that they have very different kind of game.., and the3 bench.., both team had a deep bech it's just that the lakers supporting players find there own rhythm and develop their skill thru Phil jackson unlike the cavalier, which their team is focused only on how to make james play well, not letting his team mates rose their own capabilities.., that's why buzzer got out from that team...,

    And last thing is Kobe is much superior in his position of being a shooting guard and a small forward if necessary, he can deliver crucial shots although he misses but the thing is he brings a big impact on the game of basketball..

    James is very good in his position but that's all, he is much bigger than kobe physically and jumps like a monster but if he take a shot in the perimeter, that's a different story..., and also he can be guarded and limited by a shooting guard in the presence of KOBE24

  7. Steve Says:

    I'll tell you who NO ONE has to make excuses for when he's healthy: Dwyane Wade

    Once he gets a supporting cast like these 2 have he'll take the ring home with it (as youve seen before), and he might be on the way there if Beasley breaks out now that Marions out of his way and Jermaine Oneal gets back to his old form now that he's in Miami.

  8. laker4life Says:

    Listen this conversation is absurd kobe bryant is the best basketball player on the planet just ask lebron himself!!! Kobe is a superior on the ball defender think people kobe plays D on lebron and virtually shuts him down go back and watch the games lebron does not cover kobe very often and when he does kobe scores on him!! You talk about supporting casts and lebron has to carry more of the load? Well when kobe did not have gasol or anybody for that matter he was scoring 35ppg so put that in your pipes and smoke it!!! Lebron has proved nothing really other than he is a extremely taltented player kobe has won 3 rings and hit clutch shot after clutch shot in hugh playoffs and finals games, its not even close kobe should be the MVP best player in the league leading his team to the best record and homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs and finals!!! You people are pushing james to quickly he is great but he is not Kobe people sorry! Look at the seasons kobe has put up when he didnt get mvp the man was hosed a few times steve nash twice is a joke. All kobe heard was your team did not have the best record so thats why you didnt win it even though the entire nba world agrees your the best player on the planet!!! Give kobe his well deserved back2back mvp award. Better yet give it to queen james so his fans quit whining and kobe will go ahead and win the nba title and then it will show who was the real MVP regardless...

  9. Aroo Says:

    author shhould begin a book, it's great!