Why Do the Lakers Squander so Many Leads and Why do They Play Poorly on the Road?The reflexive, mainstream media answer to the title question of this article is that Kobe Bryant "is not clutch" or at least that he has "not been clutch" this season. There are two problems with that kind of thinking:
1) "Clutch" statistics inherently involve a small sample size of data that contains a variety of kinds of plays and shots that cannot just be mixed together to produce any kind of rational, coherent analysis.
2) While it is true that Kobe Bryant's overall performance on the road--which comprises a much larger sample size than just his "clutch" statistics--this season has been much worse than his overall performance at home, the Lakers' problems go deeper than Bryant's road field goal percentage.
Kevin Ding, a rare NBA beat writer who actually provides excellent analysis instead of just filing by the numbers postgame reports, recently offered his take on the Lakers' road problems:
The Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder flat-out have the speed and bounce to win without refined execution--and to win for sure when they indeed do execute. We now know even better than three months ago how badly the Lakers needed at least an infusion of offensive creativity from Paul at point guard.
Lakers coach Mike Brown did craft this plan to play through big men Andrew Bynum and Gasol in the post, but Brown will admit the limitations of that approach.
"The post is the easiest place in basketball to double," Brown said.
That's why Brown is so often looking like a one-man bowling team with those constant underhand waves at Derek Fisher and Steve Blake to hurry the ball across halfcourt. The Lakers need every precious shot-clock second to set up the proper spacing, get Bryant a touch, throw the ball into the post, draw the double team, pass it back out, set up and fight for the re-post, swing the ball to the weak side to look for something there and ideally reach a fourth option on offense before the 24-second clock expires.
Doing all that is not a particularly fun way to play the game, which is a basic reason the Lakers do not do it when they're messing around instead of approaching the game in the most businesslike manner. (And if you've got a lead, is it human nature to stay businesslike or try to have some fun? Yeah, now you know why the Lakers blow so many leads.)
That cavalier attitude is what bit the Lakers in Washington, with Bynum piling up seven turnovers and Bryant jacking tough shots up before double teams arrived instead of everyone making patient passes, cutting toward space and doing the work.
Bryant has played a major role on five championship teams and he has been the Lakers' primary playmaker for the vast majority of his career. Is it logical to leap to the conclusion that his subpar road performance this season "proves" that he is a selfish gunner who is simply trying to move up the all-time scoring list or does it make more sense--based on Bryant's track record and the Lakers' anemic offense overall, as documented by Ding above--to give Bryant the benefit of the doubt and assume that Bryant is trying to do whatever he can to help the Lakers win?
posted by David Friedman @ 2:26 PM