Monday, March 26, 2012

Mike Brown's Questionable Decision to Bench Kobe (3.25.12)

While watching the Laker game last night, I held onto hope that the Lakers would be able to come back from their deficit and win the game. The last time they met Memphis, they pulled off this feat after trailing by 17 points and forcing double overtime for the win. Kobe Bryant played 52 minutes that game. Bryant played the entire second half and both overtimes. The very next night, Kobe played 48 minutes to pull out a win over the Hornets. Both of these road games required heavy lifting from Mr. Bryant and he delivered the goods. The point is worth repeating, Kobe Bryant played 100 minutes in back to back games on the road. Very few people on this planet can do such a thing, but Kobe can.

This point leads me back to last night's Memphis game. With 5:32 remaining in the game and the Lakers down by fourteen points, Mike Brown decided it would be a good time to sub in Metta World Peace for Kobe. After spearheading a 15-0 run in the third quarter to get the Lakers only down by three to start the fourth, it seemed like the Lakers were heading in the right direction. Kobe went off for 12 points and had 1 assist in the quarter on 4-4 shooting. To start the 4th, Kobe cooled off, going 1-3 with 1 assist and 2 turnovers. The Grizzlies swelled the lead up to fourteen points by the time Mike Brown decided to sit Kobe down for the first time in the half with 5:45 remaining.

This was a very interesting decision given Kobe's ability to come up big despite the minutes he has accumulated. Mike Brown later stated, "I just decided to make a sub." Usually Mike Brown gives in-depth responses with plenty of statistical evidence; however at this point, he was succinct and unapologetic. He later brought up Kobe's minutes and indirectly implied that he did not want Kobe to play the entire second half. The Lakers went 3-11 during this opening stretch and played some horrible defense. Steve Blake was absolutely burned by O.J. Mayo during this stretch. Mayo went off for 10 points on 4-4 shooting with two assists. Bynum was not a force in the paint and the Lakers gave up second chance points and easy layups. The final play before Kobe sat down was an iso on the far baseline for Kobe. Kobe shot his patented fadeaway and came up short. The Grizzlies got the rebound and were on a 3-0 break for the easy layup. I repeat, a three on zero fast break. The Lakers were sleeping and they got caught. So Mike Brown, with his infinite wisdom, decided that a change was needed and he benched Kobe for World Peace. The benching of Kobe at this point completely surprised me. I felt that the Lakers needed a kick in the butt defensively. Bynum needed to be pulled aside and be reminded that he needs to protect the paint. A defensive change was needed, but taking out Kobe was the wrong play. Brown could have subbed Metta in for Blake, leaving Sessions, Kobe, Metta, Pau, and Bynum.
Kobe sits on the end of the bench.
(Courtesy Fox Sports West/ Los Angeles Lakers/ NBA)

However, Brown's sub seemed to work. The Lakers went on a mini-run and got the game within 8 points, 93-85. However, almost three minutes had run off the clock with Kobe sitting. With Pau at the free throw line at the 3:05 mark, the crowd began to repeatedly chant, "We want Kobe!". Mike Brown decided to listen and he sent Kobe over to the scorer's table after Pau made his first free throw. Because Brown was late with his decision, Kobe could not check in until the next dead ball. Pau sank the second and the score was 95-87. O.J. Mayo immediately came down and burned the Lakers with a 3 right in Peace's face. Bynum came down and scored on an iso post, making the score 98-89 with 2:20 remaining. On the Lakers next possession, Pau was fouled and Kobe was finally allowed to check back in with 1:51 remaining. Allowing this minute to run off definitely hurt the Lakers. Without the best closer in the lineup the Lakers lacked the firepower to go on another 8-0 or 10-0 run. Pau made both free throws and the score was 98-91.

Kobe checks the scoreboard.
(Courtesy Fox Sports West/ Los Angles Lakers/ NBA)
Kobe came in for Peace and the Lakers once again looked confused with their rotations as Tony Allen hit a long two in the corner over Kobe, 100-91. So with the game on the line and a minute and a half left in the game, how did the Lakers respond? Pau forced a horrible entry into Kobe on the far wing, and the pass was stolen. Game over. Kobe jogged back down the court and Pau seemed to have a pleading look on his face as he realized his mistake and wished he could take it back. Kobe never even got a chance to be productive with the game on the line. The Grizzlies came down and Marc Gasol nailed a wide open 20 footer after the Lakers once again did not rotate well, stretching the lead to 102-91. Sessions made two free throws after being fouled and the Lakers secured another Grizz miss. Kobe drove baseline to dunk the ball, and Tony Allen got away with a blatant foul with 34 seconds left. Kobe's sure dunk would have made the game 102-95. Instead the Lakers inbounded and Pau air balled an 8 foot fadeaway. The Grizzlies ran out the clock and Bynum threw up one last 3 that surprisingly went in. Lakers lose, 102-96.

Mike Brown's questionable decision to sit Kobe probably cost the Lakers a greater chance to win. Kobe's only shot attempt was a blocked (fouled) dunk attempt. The Lakers scored 10 points in the four minutes that Kobe sat, and they finished with 7 points in the final 1:51 that he was in. Sitting Kobe at the 5:45 mark may have been a decent idea if Kobe had only sat for a minute to catch his breath. However, we have all seen Kobe power through and finish games without needing rest. Kobe did not look winded when he was benched and he was definitely pissed as he sat on the end of the bench. Mike Brown could just have easily called a timeout if he truly felt that Kobe was tired after playing the entire second half. Instead Brown wasted the potential opportunity of Kobe getting hot and spearheading a comeback. Even if Kobe didn't get hot, he would still attract plenty of attention and could get guys easy open shots.

Defensively the Lakers were just lazy. They couldn't come up with stops when they needed them the most and the Grizzlies hit some big time shots. Overall, I place this loss on the defense and Mike Brown. Brown needed to make sure that the Lakers stepped up their defensive presence. On a night where Kobe was an efficient 7-15 for 18 points, Brown should have ridden him the entire way home. Kobe finished with 38 minutes on the night. Would 42 have been that much worse? The Lakers have a day off today and have a short flight to play Golden State on Tuesday. These lost opportunities will probably cost the Lakers the coveted 2 seed as the Lakers now trail the Spurs by four games. The Lakers will get three opportunities to cut into the Spurs lead in the coming month, but that may not be enough. For now, the Lakers let another one slip away. Although their home record is outstanding, this home game was needed, and they collectively blew it.

Kobe decided not to make a big deal out of the situation, stating, "If you guys are looking for a story, I'm not going to give you one." This positive attitude is promising and is a definite sign of a superstar who is focused on winning. Dodging a chance to inflame the controversy, Kobe understands the bigger picture. Mike Brown probably won't make this a habit, and hopefully he has gotten the tinkering bug out of his system. Let the closers close Mike. Win or lose, you want your best players out there. Hopefully the Lakers get their act together and come out strong in their next pivotal home game against the Thunder.

1 comment:

  1. It was a struggle for me to write Metta World Peace instead of Ron Artest... haha