Being a Clutch Player is More Significant than Just Making Clutch ShotsEven though game-winning shots are very exciting, it is much more important to be a clutch player than to simply hit clutch shots; it is more impressive and significant to be able to control an entire game--or at least large stretches of a game--than to hit one shot at the end, even if that one shot provides the final margin of victory. Kobe Bryant has nailed six game-winning shots this year but what really matters--as I noted in a recent post--is that he has carried the Lakers to victories in several games that they would have surely lost if he had not been so efficient and productive.
Still, I know that it is fun to look at highlights of game-winning shots. So, here is some video candy:
Unless you hate the Lakers or you are a fan of one of the teams Bryant victimized then you probably enjoyed watching that clip--but from a skill set standpoint two things are more important than the simple fact that Bryant made those six shots.
Regardless of where Bryant received the ball on each of those plays or what kind of shot he ultimately took, note how he squared his shoulders toward the target and utilized text book shooting form prior to releasing each shot. Even on the off balance bank shot that beat the Heat--a shot that Bryant called "lucky"--Bryant's shoulders were squared and his shooting form was correct despite the way that he had to contort the rest of his body to get the shot off. Bryant makes these late game shots for the same reason that he is so deadly during the first 47 minutes of the game: he has perfected his skill set in terms of getting open, squaring up his shoulders and shooting against even a well placed defender.
Although so much attention has been paid to these six shots, Bryant did a lot of work in most of those games prior to hitting those shots. Some morons--like a blogger who loves the Knicks, a team that plays defense about as well as he writes--say that if Bryant played better throughout the games then the Lakers would not need for him to hit game winners, but that idiotic contention is easily refuted by examining some brief back stories about the six games depicted in the above video:
1) Bryant scored a game-high 33 points on 12-25 shooting against the Heat on December 4. He also grabbed seven rebounds, just one fewer than his big men Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum each had.
2) Bryant scored a game-high 39 points on 13-28 shooting against the Bucks on December 16. He added seven rebounds (tied for second on the team) and four assists (tied for the team high) while playing a game-high 49:59 just four days after suffering an avulsion fracture to the index finger on his right (shooting hand).
3) Bryant scored a game-high 39 points on 13-27 shooting against the Kings on January 1. He also led the Lakers in assists (five) and ranked third in rebounds (five) while playing a game-high 47:14.
4) Suffering through back spasms, Bryant scored just 10 points on 5-11 shooting against the Mavericks on January 13; for most of the game he was an effective decoy, not committing a single turnover in 35:00 and drawing double teams that provided open shots for his teammates.
5) Bryant tied Bynum for team-high honors with 19 points (on 8-20 shooting) against the Celtics on January 31. Bryant led the Lakers with six assists in a game-high 44:58.
6) Bryant scored a game-high 32 points on 13-19 shooting against the Grizzlies on February 23. He also had a game-high six assists and tied for second on the team with seven rebounds.
The game-winning shots look good in the highlight video but check out Bryant's overall statistics from those six games: 172 points (28.7 ppg) on 64-130 shooting (.492). Bryant had game-high point totals in four of those games while also posting excellent rebounding and assist numbers--and those figures would be even better if he had sat out versus Dallas instead of fighting through back spasms (earlier this season, Bryant said that he thinks that part of the reason many players miss games with injuries that Bryant plays through is that those players are trying to protect their statistical averages).
There is nothing wrong with enjoying highlight videos of game-winning shots--but truly being a clutch player consists of a lot more than scoring a few timely baskets at the end of games.
posted by David Friedman @ 4:30 AM