Kobe Bryant had a rough night against the New Orleans Hornets this past Saturday. Rough night may be an understatement; Kobe had the third worst shooting game of his career with a minimum of 20 shots. Kobe went 0-15 in the first three quarters. Zero for fifteen! I cannot recall the last time Kobe was held scoreless through three quarters. That dry stretch constitutes the most consecutively missed field goal attempts of Kobe's career. However, the cliche goes, "It's not how you start, it's how you finish." Gatorade and Nike, champions of excellence, have built numerous ad campaigns centering around this theme. Pretty much any sport themed sentiment always centers around finishing strong.
Kobe Bryant knew he was having one of the worst games of his career, but he stayed persistent and finished strong. Kobe ended up going 3-6 in the final quarter. After sitting for the first five minutes of the fourth quarter, Kobe subbed in and scored 11 points, including the huge 3 pointer that put the Lakers ahead for good. Down by two with 30 seconds left in the game, Kobe received a pass from Ramon Sessions. Kobe held the ball around 28 feet away from the basket on the far wing as Pau came up to deliver the pick. Kobe gave Pau a look, and Pau slipped the pick and immediately cleared out by cutting to the post. Kobe had a prime one on one situation against Jarrett Jack. Kobe came up short on most of his shots throughout the night. Usually shooting short indicates that a player has tired legs and can't elevate enough to get some good arc on the shot. However, with supreme confidence, Kobe jabbed right, took one dribble forward and did a little rock step shuffle to fake a blow by. Kobe pulled up for the 3 with Jack's hand in his face and he splashed it in. Swish. This put the Lakers up 86-85 with 20 seconds left in the game.
The Lakers almost blew the lead on the next possession. Jarrett Jack came right back and attacked the rim after Steve Blake was switched onto him because of the 1-2 pick and roll. Fortunately, Jack missed the 1ft runner off the glass and Barnes got the board and made his free throws. The Hornets had one last chance with 2 seconds left, but this time the Lakers played great D and Pau ended up blocking a desperation 3 pointer by Jason Smith. Smith curled from the free throw line to the near wing. Vasquez inbounded to Smith, and Smith immediately looked to hand the ball off to Vasquez for the 3. Smith then pivoted and opened up toward the far side, but Kobe denied Belinelli at the top of the key. Smith had no choice but to shoot the 3, but Pau was all up in his grill and he swatted the ball. Game over. Lakers win, 88-85.
Critics may look at the box score and laugh at Kobe's 3-21 shooting night, however a closer inspection of the game must be accounted. The Lakers had 25 assists on 27 made baskets. Overall the Lakers had great ball movement and put up good shots within the offense. Kobe specifically took great shots. He only forced up two shots the entire night. In the third quarter, Kobe received the ball in the far corner, he jabbed and shot over the big man, Jason Smith. Kobe air balled the shot, putting him at 0-12. The only other shot Kobe forced was the game winning 3. Every other shot Kobe took came within the flow of the offense. Kobe went 1-8 from downtown. Surprisingly the toughest shot was the one he made. All of the other shots came from post kick outs and drive and kicks. Kobe took these wide open shots and came up short on all of them. Kobe also came up short after gathering great position on numerous attempts. He had multiple curls and catches in the lane that came up just short. He had multiple catches at the elbow off of down screens and shot short. For some reason the ball just would not go in for Kobe. He also had two shots go in and out. It just wasn't his night. The casual fan may look at the box score and state, "Man, Kobe chucked it tonight." However, this definitely did not happen. Kobe made plays for his teammates, dishing out 5 assists, two of them beautiful bounce passes on fast breaks for dunks. Kobe also impacted the game defensively. He hounded Belinelli all night, forcing him to go 3-12 for 8 points. Kobe came up with 3 steals and multiple deflections. His ball denial on the final possession of the game also took away the best three point shooter the Hornets have. Kobe's overall impact on the game reached further than the box score.
Overall, Kobe's willingness to keep shooting is what sets him apart from others. Do you think Lebron James would have taken that game winning 3 after going 2-20? I highly doubt it. Lebron won't even take that shot when he's 15-20. Kobe's willingness to fail allows him to succeed. With supreme confidence in his game, Kobe always believes that the next shot is going in. Kobe doesn't think about the 15 straight misses, Kobe thinks about making the next one. Kobe stated after the game, "I'm stubborn. You have to have that kind of attitude, that kind of determination or stubbornness. That's what gets teams over the hump to win multiple championships." Exactly. The heart of a champion understands that failure is a prerequisite for success. You can never make a shot that you don't take. Fortunately, Kobe Bryant is always willing to take that shot.
Kobe stubborn enough to be clutch.