I only caught the second half of the elimination game tonight between the Lakers and the Spurs. When I started watching the Spurs had a 10-point lead, but by the start of the 4th quarter, their lead was only 2. Kobe basically took the game over himself making some truly amazing plays.
Normally, Bruce Bowen is the kind of lockdown defender that can shutdown the best of the best. Tonight, Kobe just made him look silly. I just took 2 plays but I think they really show what is so great about Kobe. I think Kobe is probably the smartest 1v1 player to ever play, with the exception of Michael Jordan. Kobe reads his defender, then uses his superior speed and athleticism to take advantage. Take a look at Kobe drilling 3-pointer in Bowen's face, then breaking him down on a drive and pull-up in the next possession,
In the first play, Kobe gets the pass coming off the baseline screen. As Kobe gets into triple threat, he sees that Bowen is playing him for the drive. He knows this because of the way his feet are positioned with his hands extended outward. It's easily enough room for Kobe to shoot over,
Now, coming right back, here is Kobe again getting the quick pass from Radmanovic on the Odom drive. Bowen is caught a little out of position and so he tries to closeout quickly. As Kobe gets into triple-threat, you can see him read Bowen here. Bowen's momentum is taking him directly to Kobe, so Kobe simply attacks Bowen's hip blowing right by him. Bowen at this point can't stop fast enough and falls down,
If you haven't read the article on SI.com yet about Kobe's killer instinct, you really should. In it, Kobe talks about being a basketball nerd,
And just as he once did with Rob Schwartz, Bryant keeps NBA teammates after practice as guinea pigs. He unveils a spin move or a crossover or something else he has picked up watching tape and does it over and over and over. "The crazy thing about it is, he has the ability to put new elements in his game overnight," says George, a Laker from 1999 to 2006 and a frequent target of Kobe's requests. "He might say, 'Stay after and guard this move. Let me try it on you,' and he'll do it the next day in the game." George pauses to let this sink in. "Most of us, we'll try it alone, then we'll try it in practice, then in a scrimmage, and only then will we bring it out for a game. He'd do it the next day -- and it would work."
It's 2003, and Bryant is getting worked up in an interview while talking about a variation on a move: a jab step-and-pause, where you sink deep, hesitate to let the defender relax and, instead of bringing the jab foot back, push off it. Soon enough, Bryant is out of his chair and using the reporter as a defender on the carpeted floor. Then he has the reporter trying the move. Some people are Star Wars nerds; Bryant is a basketball nerd. "I think Kobe's actually a little bit embarrassed by his love of basketball," says Downer. "People called him a loner, but it's just that basketball is all he wants to focus on. I think he's part of a dying breed that loves the game that way."
Kobe is a true student of the 1v1 game. He`s always thinking about his shot, how to beat different defenders. That's what great players do, they study how to be great, in much the same way that MJ was.
I don't think the Spurs could have done any more than they did to win this series. They were simply too drained from the first 2 series. They did have chances, like in Game 1, then the missed call in Game 4. But the Lakers were the better team with their youth and athleticism advantage and it was obvious. Depending on who they play in the finals, I think the Lakers have to be considered favorites though either way.
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