NBA Analysis: Kobe Bryant Proves He's Not Clutch vs. Kings

| by David Berri

Henry Abbott created quite the stir at TrueHoop on Friday. In “The Truth about Kobe Bryant in Crunch Time”, Henry attacked a belief held by NBA decision-makers, the media, and fans. The vast majority of these people appear to believe that Kobe is the best player in the clutch in the NBA.  Henry presented extensive evidence that this belief is not supported by much evidence. In fact, the extensive evidence Henry presents makes it clear that Kobe is simply not the best player in crunch-time.

It is not necessary to review all of this evidence here (if you haven’t already, go read Henry’s lenghthy column). But one should note that

  • since 1996-97, Kobe has taken 115 shots in the final 24 seconds of close games (teams within two points).  No one has taken more shots in this situation.
  • Kobe has only hit on 31.3% of these shots, a mark eclipsed by many other players.
  • Since Kobe arrived, the Lakers have had the best offense in the league.  But in crunch time – with Kobe on the roster – the Lakers are quite a bit worse (ranking only 12th).

So, Kobe takes more shots than anyone else in crunch time. But he isn’t particularly good at making these shots and Kobe taking all these shots doesn’t appear to help his team.

This story appeared on the front page of the ESPN website on Friday. So it is possible Kobe heard about this.  And on Friday night, Kobe had his first chance to respond. And if Friday was his first response, it appears Kobe really wanted to confirm everything Henry was saying.

To see this, let’s review what happened in the last two minutes of Friday’s game between the Sacramento Kings and the LA Lakers. With two minutes to go in the game, the Kings led 95-90 and the Lakers had the ball. 

Here is how the Lakers’ possessions played out until the end of the contest:

@ 1:53 — Kobe misses 10-foot jumper (Pau Gasol rebounded the miss and then Shannon Brown missed a three-pointer)

After the Kings scored to make it 97-90…

@1:13 –Kobe misses a three-point shot

Omri Casspi of the Kings rebounded the miss but Tyreke Evans (with help from Lamar Odom) turned the ball back over to the Kings.  And then…

@0:49 – Kobe makes an 8-foot jumper to pull the Lakers within 97-92

After Samuel Dalembert is fouled and makes one of two free throws, Kobe Bryant draws a foul (while in the act of shooting).

@0:32 – Kobe Bryant makes two free throws

After Carl Landry is fouled and makes one of two free throws, the Lakers call a time-out. After the time-out…

@0:20 – Kobe Bryant misses a three-point shot

After the Lakers get the offensive rebound, Steve Blake misses a three-point shot. After the Lakers get the offensive rebound…

@0:08 – Kobe Bryant misses a three-point shot 

After the Lakers get the offensive rebound, Steve Blake is fouled and makes one of two free throws. After Pau Gasol rebounds the miss, Gasol misses a layup and Carl Landry of the Kings grabs the rebound. Landry is fouled and makes one of two free throws. The Lakers call time-out after the make, and then…

@ 0:02 – Kobe Bryant misses a three point shot.

Samuel Dalembert rebounds the miss and the game ends.

Okay, let’s recap. The Lakers are down by five. But the Lakers had the ball and – according to conventional wisdom – were in great shape because they also had Kobe Bryant. And here is what Mr. Bryant did to win this game:

  • Of the Lakers nine field goal attempts in the last two minutes, Kobe took six of these shots. Yes, Kobe likes taking shots at the end of a close game.
  • On these six shots, Kobe scored two points for an effective field goal percentage of 17%. Yes, Kobe has problems hitting shots in close games. 
  • Prior to the last two minutes of the game, the Lakers attempted 71 field goal attempts, and Kobe took 21. On these 21 field goal attempts, Kobe scored 26 points for an effective field goal percentage of 62%. Yes, Kobe is really good. In fact, he is a much better shooter when he is not playing at the end of a close game.

Once again, Henry’s story appears on the front page of the website on Friday morning. That night, Kobe goes out and illustrates what Henry was saying. In the last two minutes of a close game, Kobe decides to take the vast majority of his team’s shots. And his ability to hit these shots is far lower than what we see across the rest of the game.

Henry’s post has generated more than 2,500 comments. And one suspects, many of these weren’t nice. One wonders, though, if any of the people who think Henry is a “Kobe-hater” (whatever that is) were impressed by what Kobe did on Friday night. Or did this performance change their mind?

Okay, I doubt it changed many people’s minds. Especially the minds of those “Abbott-haters”.

- DJ