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Monday, February 02, 2009

Kobe Tops King and Jordan by Dropping 61 Points at MSG

Bernard King and Michael Jordan have to move aside in the Madison Square Garden record book--Kobe Bryant just dropped 61 points on the Knicks in a 126-117 Lakers win, breaking King's mark for most points in the "new" MSG (60 on Christmas Day 1984) and surpassing Jordan's standard for most points by an opposing player in that building (the famous "double nickel" game during his first comeback in 1995); the current Madison Square Garden--also known as "Garden IV"--opened in February 1968. Bryant shot 19-31 from the field (including 3-6 from three point range) and made all 20 of his free throws. He only played 37 minutes, scoring 18 points in the first quarter, 16 points in the second quarter, 12 points in the third quarter and 15 points in the fourth quarter.

It should not be forgotten or discounted that Bryant is playing with a dislocated ring finger on his shooting hand, an injury that would knock a lot of players out of the lineup (LeBron James missed six games last year with a less severe finger injury). Of course, Bryant played the latter part of last season and in the Olympics with an avulsion fracture in the pinkie finger on the same hand, an injury for which he will eventually need surgery, but--as I mentioned in a recent post--it only took Bryant 15 days after that pinkie injury to have a 40 point game. Bryant topped himself this time, exceeding the 40 point mark just 14 days after his most recent finger injury.

Bryant has now scored at least 50 points in 24 regular season games, trailing only Jordan (31) and Wilt Chamberlain (118) on the all-time list. This was the fourth highest scoring output of Bryant's career and his fifth 60 point game, second most all-time (Jordan had four, Baylor tallied three); Chamberlain leads that list with 32 such games. Before Mike Wilbon or anyone else makes noise about how bad it supposedly is for the Lakers when Bryant shoots a lot, it should be noted that the Lakers are 17-7 in Bryant's 50 point games and 65-30 when he scores at least 40 points.

Starting at center for the first time this season in the wake of Andrew Bynum's knee injury, Pau Gasol had 31 points, a game-high 14 rebounds and five assists. Trevor Ariza added 13 points and no other Laker reached double figures. Al Harrington led the Knicks with 24 points.

Monday was a banner day for Bryant; he also received the Western Conference Player of the Month award on Monday after averaging 27.2 ppg (fourth in the NBA) and 7.1 apg (ninth in the NBA) while leading the Lakers to a 12-4 record.

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posted by David Friedman @ 10:59 PM

13 comments

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13 Comments:

At Tuesday, February 03, 2009 1:27:00 AM, Blogger FreeCashFlow said...

Leave it to the WOWers to talk about how Lebron James 50 point, 10 assist, and 8 rebound game was better (it wasn't), and how Pau Gasol is the real MVP of the Lakers (he isn't).

 
At Tuesday, February 03, 2009 3:01:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Free Cash Flow:

Nothing that I read or hear surprises me at this point. I've seen bloggers try to argue that a 20-plus assist game by Nash was more impressive than a 60-plus point game by Kobe--and some of these clowns who could not "analyze" a McDonald's menu, let alone properly understand basketball strategy or explain what has happened in a game, end up getting gigs with large, mainstream websites.

I'd rather that this site be underrated than overrated and I will keep writing the truth rather than just say or post anything to get attention or curry favor.

I find similar silliness with the tennis analysis, where some people have been trying to pump up Federer as the greatest Open Era player or even the greatest player of all-time period. How the hell can someone be the greatest when he has a contemporary who beats him on every surface and owns a lopsided match record against him? I predicted a year and a half ago that Nadal was going to overtake Federer--back when the "experts" were saying that Nadal could only win on clay--and I've said all along that Borg is the greatest Open Era player so far due to the numerous records he set, in particular his Wimbledon-French Open "triple-double" from 1978-80. I know more about several other sports than I do about tennis, so when I can analyze my fourth or fifth best sport better than the guys who are making big bucks as talking heads something's upside down but all I can do is keep calling 'em as I see 'em and let the chips fall where they may.

I am grateful that I have a dedicated group of readers who appreciate what I am doing here and I value the loyalty that you and several other frequent commenters have shown.

 
At Tuesday, February 03, 2009 3:13:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think kobe is a first team all mvp player, and one of the top 25 perimter defenders.

would u agree

 
At Tuesday, February 03, 2009 5:26:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

Kobe Bryant is definitely an All-NBA First Team level player. He and LeBron are the top two MVP candidates this season, in my opinion. Kobe is not just among the top 25 perimeter defenders; he is among the top handful of perimeter defenders, as indicated by the fact that he is perennially chosen as a member of the All-Defensive First Team.

 
At Tuesday, February 03, 2009 6:31:00 AM, Blogger Joel said...

As I expected, I woke up this morning to find that someone (this time SI.com's Paul Forrester) had managed to twist Kobe's big night into a negative. (Link: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/writers/paul_forrester/02/03/kobe.scores.61/index.html?eref=T1)

Here's the comment I posted on forumblueandgold.com:

Someone always trots out the same cliches and BS whenever Kobe has a big scoring night. (Lakers win more when Kobe shoots less, yadda, yadda, yadda…) It’s amazing how a 3-time champion who has been to the finals 5 times and missed the playoffs once still needs to ‘prove’ to some random journalist that he can trust his teammates. You can still get easy fodder for a story using that tired angle.

With that being said, saying LeBron ‘neutralized’ Kobe isn’t even a cliche, it’s a blatant lie and shows how lazy Forrester was in writing that column.


Regarding FreeCashFlow's post, I don't read WoW so I don't know whether you are being tongue-in-cheek or not, but many people have this idea that getting a lot of rebounds and assists is the only way to show that you are an 'all-around player'. I would argue that it only takes 2 or 3 skills (rebounding, passing, and maybe ballhandling) to get 7 rebounds and 9 assists, but score 60 points in the way Kobe did requires at least 5 or 6. (Examples: midrange game, 3-point shooting, free-throw shooting, ballhandling, use of fakes, footwork.) How can people treat scoring as one category (basically equal to assists, rebounds, etc) when it is the most difficult (in my opinion) and multidimensional part of the game?

What's your take on that David?

 
At Tuesday, February 03, 2009 7:50:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Joel:

My larger take is that it is increasingly mystifying to me why many of the people who provide commentary for SI, ESPN and other outlets are considered to be either "experts" and/or top notch journalists. There are two ways to approach writing about a subject: either you have expertise based on personal experience (as a coach, player, etc.) or you do due diligence in terms of research and analysis. Instead, it seems like a lot of people just throw any wild opinion out there just to get a reaction or justify their own biases/ignorance. This is a strange, strange business, because competence and writing skill seem to have become secondary concerns instead of primary qualifications.

Regarding the specifics of your question, to say that LeBron "neutralized" Kobe is a joke; the truth of the matter is closer to the opposite of that statement: Kobe did not necessarily "neutralize" James the last time that they played but he guarded James about as well as is humanly possible and he did so right after suffering an injury that caused him the worst pain he has ever experienced on a basketball court.

As for WoW, it has been asserted there that Bynum is more valuable than Kobe and that Gasol outperformed Kobe in the Finals, two assessments that any informed NBA observer would consider to be completely ludicrous. I don't know what WoW's take on Kobe's game will be, nor do I particularly care; I allowed myself to get dragged into one discussion there (regarding the Denver-Detroit trade) and that is more than enough nonsense to have on my plate.

Yes, someone seriously suggested that a 20-plus assist game by Nash was more impressive than a 60-plus point game by Kobe and, as an old rap lyric goes, this guy is so wack I am not even going to call out his name.

You are correct that the way that Kobe scores his points involves multiple skills and that it is imprecise to simply plop all of those skills under one generic "scoring" category and then say that other players are supposedly more versatile. Also, Kobe's rebounding, passing and defensive skills measure up to or exceed those of any other perimeter players in the game today, so the suggestion that Kobe is one dimensional is ridiculous on any number of levels.

The bottom line is that the mainstream media spits out a lot of nonsense about a variety of subjects. The real mystery is why the public pays such substandard products and why editors are not more interested in seeking out higher quality content.

 
At Tuesday, February 03, 2009 2:41:00 PM, Anonymous Nick said...

David - Just wanted to say I enjoy reading your stuff.

just a few comments on Kobe, Bynum etc...

I was very very interested to see Kobe's approach coming into this game - whether he was going to try and go off, or just to stay within the offense setting up others and deffering to Gasol down low in the post. Obviously he chose the former, but often he seems to choose one or the other, almost like its pre-determined.

I have a few Q's for you- first, how do you feel that Bynum's absence is going to affect the Lakers in the short term(assume he'll make it back for the playoffs or atleast the relevant latter series (WCF, Finals)?

obviously his length and shotblocking on defense will be missed. He is an inconsistent rebounder and Odom likely can come close to matching his #'s.(his reb. rate last yr. while starting is about the same as Bynum's this yr.) Offensively I dont think that the Lakers will fall too much, as the Value over replacement of Bynum over Odom isnt too large), and LA can run more for Gasol, more isos/post-ups for Kobe and more Pick n Roll w/ Kobe & Gasol ( which is my favorite play for LA especially when Odom as he is a great passer).

And what do you think Kobe's mindset will be from here on out?

I would imagine something similar to what it was at the end of last yr and so far this year, where night in and night out, he wont really turn it on scoring-wise unless he needs to. Its funny to hear that Kobe isn't even close to being the best in the game anymore from some analysts. He has shown time and again that he can get his #'s whenever he wants, but he is preserving his energy. Its funny when a guy like Hollinger, based on PER, will declare Bron, Wade and CP to be clearly superior to Kobe without a doubt. For example, Kobe has a superior TS%, TO rate and rebound rate than Wade, but just doesn't use as many possessions (thus the lower PER) b/c his team doesn't need him to. I understand why you, if im not mistaken, like to use a skill-set analysis, atleast in part, to compare and judge players. This eliminates the unique contextual factors each player faces that can shape their stats.

I also think that Bynum's injury is a little bit of a wake up call and LA is determined to hold onto its top seed while he is out. I dont think LA will lose the #1 seed out West, but possibly home-court in the finals. I have trouble seeing them winning the title if they dont have home court b/c Boston plays awesome in front of its crowd and I see LA's role players making a much bigger impact at home (usually the case w/ most bench players or young guys).

 
At Tuesday, February 03, 2009 4:52:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Nick:

I've heard people say that they think that Kobe predetermines if he is going to be a scorer or a distributor on a given night. I (and others) have asked Kobe about this and he always denies it, saying that he reads the defense and makes the appropriate play. During in-game huddles and in post game comments, Coach D'Antoni explained that he did not want to trap Kobe because Kobe is an excellent passer and because D'Antoni thought that perhaps this would be a "rope a dope" situation (his exact words) in which Kobe would "shoot himself out" of the game. Considering D'Antoni's strategy, Kobe did the right thing: punish the Knicks for single covering him. It would make no sense for Kobe to pass to someone who is also covered when Kobe enjoys a mismatch advantage. This is the kind of thing that guys like Forrester and Wilbon and others simply don't understand. I don't know what Forrester's background is. I think that Wilbon is a very good general sports columnist whose work I have long enjoyed but ESPN is pumping him up as some kind of NBA expert and that is a joke.

During last year's playoffs, Hubie Brown mentioned that he watched game film of Kobe and that there were over 40 plays during which Kobe handled the ball and had to make a pass/shoot read; Coach Brown said that Kobe made the right play virtually every time and he added that Kobe's decision making is off the charts good. The superficial nonsense that others spout about LeBron being a better teammate and Kobe being a gunner is ridiculous. LeBron is a very good decision maker but so is Kobe--Kobe just has more scoring options than LeBron because he has better footwork and a better shooting stroke.

The Lakers lost Turiaf but gained Ariza plus a Gasol who is now completely in tune with their offensive and defensive sets. Barring further injuries, the Lakers should again win the West. Don't forget that they stomped their way through the playoffs last year without Bynum until they ran into Boston.

The fact that the Lakers most likely can lose Bynum and still win the West makes comments about Bynum being the team's most valuable player (as WoW suggested last year) look ludicrous; try taking Kobe off of the team and see how far the Lakers would go.

I agree that the Lakers probably need home court advantage in the Finals in order to win a championship. There could be a scenario in which Boston or Cleveland has a better record than L.A. but the team with the worse record eliminates the other and the Lakers have a better record than the team that is left standing--Cleveland almost won game seven in Boston last year.

 
At Wednesday, February 04, 2009 12:10:00 AM, Anonymous J said...

Kobe's 61 truly was an outstanding performance. On the treadmill tonight, I was watching ESPN's coast-to-coast lookin, and they broke down just how Kobe scored the 61, and the studio commentators were going nuts over how complete a player he is and how pure a shooter he is, which is nice to see some recognition (given, as you have highlighted, the media often portrays him).

They had a chart up for his points, with 16 coming from Isolation plays (which accords with your takeaway point about D'Antoni's strategy to single-team him and see what happened), only 4 in transition, and maybe 6 or 9 from pick and roll, and a couple other categories (and then FTs accounting for 20). It was impressive to see the diversity, and it would be fascinating to see such #s on a regular basis, for a range of players (i.e., folks like Ray Allen or Rip Hamilton, vs LeBron or Pierce or D-Wade or AI).

Anyhow, I thought I would note the enthusiasm and praise directed at Kobe from the ESPN crew. I can't recall who on was on there, but I know Jamal Mashburn was.

 
At Wednesday, February 04, 2009 12:21:00 AM, Anonymous J said...

PS -- it's off-topic, but I have to take major issue with your Federer rant.

It's perfectly reasonable why many people would think to call Federer one of, if not the very, best tennis players of all-time: 13.

Only Sampras has more Grand Slam titles, and Federer is still only 27. And unlike Sampras, Federer has no glaring weakness in his game: he has reached three consecutive Finals at the French Open (where, yes, he lost to Nadal, who earlier in his career appeared almost a clay-specialist, as his performances on other surfaces were nowhere near as good). Sampras, of course, consistently struggled on clay and never really put in a good performance in Paris.

Nadal is currently up 13 to 6 on Federer, which is hardly some massive, massive difference. And, yes, while Nadal is younger (22) and possibly poised to dominate, let's assess where Nadal is in 5 years -- part of what makes players like Federer or Sampras so great is maintaining their greatness as they age.

In any event, surely any discussion of the greatest players in tennis has to include Federer alongside players like Sampras, Borg, and Laver. Nadal could very well join them in time, but I wouldn't count Federer out just yet. It's not like his Wimbledon or Aussie Open losses were crushing defeats; they were very narrow losses, and he and Nadal are very evenly matched.

 
At Wednesday, February 04, 2009 3:01:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

marcel


great game from number 24 he is great player how great is he 61 on knicks and he was amazing. the lakers needed it he needed it after the bynum disaster he is playing at high level dantoni should of doubled him more. lebron might try to one up him but hell get his triple double and hell be great.

 
At Wednesday, February 04, 2009 5:57:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

J:

I don't object to Federer being "in the discussion"; my objection is that at some point a couple years ago many people were simply declaring him to be the greatest ever, period--not one of the greatest. It was like the "discussion" was over, similar to how some people are acting like LeBron is this year's MVP and that "discussion" is over.

Crowning Federer in that fashion struck me as premature, because Federer's winning percentages do not match Borg's, nor has Federer pulled off the Wimbledon-French Open double once, let alone three times. Also, Nadal owned a head to head advantage against Federer early on and as time has passed that margin has not only grown but Nadal has proven capable of beating Federer on any surface. In light of those facts/trends, I said nearly two years ago that people should hold off on crowning Federer until we see where the rivalry with Nadal goes; the age difference and Nadal's rapid improvement made me believe that he would soon surpass Federer, period--i.e., not just in the French Open--and that is exactly what has happened.

I still rank Borg as the greatest Open Era player, with Sampras second. Federer is "in the discussion" for the next spot but Nadal has to be "in the discussion" as well. This is not a case of Federer being the number one player who has problems beating one journeyman because of a bad stylistic matchup; Nadal has taken Federer's number one ranking and toppled him on his two favorite surfaces. Either we should hold off on assigning an all-time ranking to these guys until their careers are over or Nadal has to be placed at least on equal footing with Federer even though Federer has won more total Slams; Nadal is winning Slams at a pace that only Borg exceeded.

 
At Wednesday, February 04, 2009 6:03:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

J:

Mashburn is a good analyst, from what I've seen. That breakdown of Kobe's performance really captured just how special it was. This was not just a matter of getting hot; Kobe used his footwork, shooting stroke and overall skill set to create high percentage scoring opportunities and he drained all of his free throws when the Knicks fouled him.

 

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