My Thoughts on the Finals

Written by Ian Levy

Also seen at ilevy.wordpress.com

Kobe: Finals MVP or Finals Most Famous Scorer?

This is a few days late, but I wanted to chip in with a few thoughts on the Lakers winning their second consecutive championship, more specifically on Kobe winning his second consecutive Finals MVP. First of all congratulations to the Lakers. They earned their win, no doubts about it. It was an incredibly compelling series to watch and I enjoyed it as much as any recent playoff series.

Now, for full disclosure I have some serious problems with Kobe. I respect his individual skills, his work ethic and the incredible effort he plays with. I have no respect for the way he barely conceals his toleration of his teammates and seems to value his specific role on a championship team more than just being on a championship team. On his podcast last week, Bill Simmons shared an anecdote from Game 5 where during a timeout following another Paul Pierce basket, Kobe screamed at Jackson in front of Artest and the entire team that since Ron wasn’t doing his job that he would guard Pierce. If I am not mistaken this is the same sort of thing which has DeMarcus Cousins in a draft free-fall and earned him a reputation as an uncoachable hot-head. That being said let’s look at some Lakers’ numbers from the Finals, and see what Kobe did to earn his Finals MVP trophy.

As Finals MVP Kobe must have been the team’s most efficient scorer. Nope, he barely shot 40% from the field and 30% on 3PTs. Odom was the most efficient from the field, and Artest was the team’s best 3PT shooter. In fact the only categories Kobe led the team in were Points, Assists, Steals, Turnovers and Personal Fouls. Only 3 out of those 5 are positive statistical categories. He didn’t even lead the team in minutes played, that was Pau Gasol. Well maybe he didn’t have the top numbers in each category, but surely his overall performance proves he was the best player on the floor. Surely the advanced stats will show he was on top?

Kobe doesn’t come out on top here either. Gasol led the team in Wins Produced and WP48. Farmar, Gasol, Artest, Fisher and Odom all had better raw +/- numbers than Kobe. I couldn’t find any PER numbers for just the Finals, but I am guessing that with his rebounding and shooting percentages Gasol would have come out on top here as well. Well maybe Kobe just performed at his best in the team’s wins. Perhaps his numbers were skewed by some bad performances in the Laker’s three losses, but he was at his best when it counted.

Except for rebounding numbers Kobe was MUCH better statistically in the Lakers losses. Well he didn’t earn the Finals MVP there. Maybe he had some defining performance, a historic 4th quarter where shook off a bad game and carried his team to victory.

Game 1 – Kobe goes 1-5 with 3 Pts. and 2 Ast in the 4th quarter. His one made basket was a 3PT with three seconds left when the Lakers were already up by 10.

Game 3 - Kobe goes 1-6 with 4 Pts. and 0 Ast in the 4th quarter.

Game 6 – With his team up 25 entering the 4th, Kobe goes 1-4 with 4 Pts. and 0 Ast in quarter.

Game 7 – In a close and hard fought 4th quarter goes 1-4 with 10 Pts. and 1 Ast.

He had a strong 4th quarter in the deciding game, but finished the series shooting 21% and averaging 5.3 points in the 4th quarter. Not great numbers for “One of the greatest closers ever.” I understand that I have a personal bias, and I understand that no one else on the Lakers produced consistently, but what exactly did he do to earn his second Finals MVP. Statistically, basic or advanced, he wasn’t the best player on the team. He performed much better when the Lakers lost, and he consistently underperformed in the clutch. Can anyone help me with this?

More Disciples of Clyde

I swear I am not auditioning for a job as their personal researchers, but Dan and Ken asked another interesting question on their podcast that I thought dovetailed nicely with this discussion. In Episode #96 Ken wondered what the Lakers record was of the past 3 season when Gasol had more shot attempts than Kobe. I looked through their games logs for the last three seasons, playoffs included. A quick analyis showed the Lakers having a 160-58 record when Gasol and Kobe both played and Kobe led the team in shot attempts. This translates to an impressive .734 winning percentage. It was a very small sample size, but the Lakers had a 17-1 record when both played, and Gasol led the team in shot attempts. This translates to an astronomical .944 winning percentage. There is certainly more to the story than a simple shot comparison between the two, but as Kobe’s athleticism continues to decline, it might be to their benefit to feature Pau more often and let Kobe play off of him.

Topics: Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers, NBA, NBA Finals, NBA Playoffs, Statistical Analysis, Statistics

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  • mif991

    So what?, no Laker fan cares about stats and/or your dribble. Just the ring baby. Similar stuff is being said about Kobe in Cleveland saying that Lebron would have done better with this supporting cast. Kobe is the leader and the reason they are champs, and nobody here in LA pretends to believe otherwise. Hey, if this urge to point out the negatives makes you feel better, it is understandable coming from a Pacer who never won it all…its called envy.

  • empirical

    wah wah,, and your shity Pacers would trade half there team him faster then a new york minute. win something anything then you might have some credibility loser.

  • Conoro

    Once again proving that you are yet another sports writer living out your dreams of athletic glory through something you couldn’t imagine attaining yourself.

    Sad. The irrational Bryant hatred is pathetic.

    • Josh Dhani

      Well, at least you had the balls to actually say something else than randomly saying “you are a fucking idiot” asshole.

      • Conoro

        “The balls”? HAHAHAHA

        Settle down, internet warrior. I only found this site because you had articles – by the grace of God, mind you – being posted on si.com’s Lakers page. Otherwise, a vast majority of your articles would have gone without comment, so I was simply filling in the void with a repetitive yet true statement.

        I’m sorry if it’s caused you any emotional duress and maybe I could have spoken to you in a more mature and respectful manner. However, Josh, the way in which you write is a harbinger of negativity as you seem to write from a place that seems to brew that very thing.

        Once again, I apologize for being immature and for blighting several already-tarnished articles.

        Have a good summer, boss.

        • Josh Dhani

          lol, what have you done in your life. I’m only 13 and I am already making $$$$. Calm down

          • Conoro

            *sigh*

            Calm down? You want me to be impolite to you? Is that your fetish or something? Talking dirty?

            You don’t even need to answer that.

            And big words for the supposed “author” who didn’t even WRITE the goddamned article.

  • matt

    I was going to compliment the author on a pretty well written article, but honestly after seeing well constructed responses from a few Lakers fans I think I’ve changed my opinion. I mean look at this excellent counter points:

    “Once again proving that you are yet another sports writer living out your dreams of athletic glory through something you couldn’t imagine attaining yourself.”

    “wah wah,, and your shity Pacers would trade half there team him faster then a new york minute”

    “no Laker fan cares about stats and/or your dribble.”

    Wait no, those are just a bunch of insults. Why is there an “irrational hatred” for Kobe, Lakers fans? Let me be clear, because we’ve watched his entire career the non stop love from the media. Mean while Lakers fans have long since concluded he must be greater than players like MJ, Magic and Bird. Sadly though, Kobe has always underperformed in clutch moments, getting bailed out by people like Horry, Odem, and Artest yet whenever this is mentioned there is never a rebuttle! Only “your just jealous, omg Kobe’s awesome.”

    We all know how incredibly talented Kobe is, but someone PLEASE point out why he is great. I’m waiting. I have no problem believing he is if someone could just show me. Show me statistics that disprove all the glaring statistics wildly available demonstrating Kobe’s horrible play in clutch moments.

    • Conoro

      Who is “we”? I think a room or collection of people can only contain as much ignorance as you provide, yourself.

      If you need stats of Kobe’s crunch time performances or if that is the sole thing you go by, maybe you should actually watch a game from time to time as that is the only way of observing someone’s value.

      As for stats, let me give you some of Kobe’s from Game Seven…

      15 rebounds: 2nd highest total overall.
      9 4th quarter points: Not clutch, I suppose.
      1 Quarter: of lockdown defense on Ray Allen, who shot 3-14 throughout the game.
      1 Finals MVP: second consecutive, so I need not say more.

      If you’d enjoy justification of Kobe’s ability in the clutch, maybe you should ask one of the overwhelming majority of ACTUAL NBA PLAYERS who is most dangerous in the clutch. Your ignorance is astonishing, man. Truly.

      Finally, x: being the unknown quantity of people who, like yourself, do not understand basketball or else you, and people like you, would not spew this garbage so carelessly. Obviously, 6-24 shooting is irrevocably horrid. You cannot justify it in any manner, but to say that Bryant is not clutch or even GREAT is about as shameful a comment as an observer/student to this sport may make.

      Unless, of course, you’re too busy reading statistics showing how Corey Maggette is more clutch than Kobe…

      • Conoro

        And “bailed out”? Of course he’s been bailed out, you goddamn fool.

        Jordan was bailed out by Paxson; Magic by Kareem and Worthy; Bird by Maxwell and McHale. All many, many times. Does that make them less great? No. It means they were human and not able to score every time they wished in moments of stress.

        Stop talking from behind your statistics, they are blinding you.

    • empirical

      Your right, after all you have to know better then all the Gms in the NBA that say that when a game is on the line they want Bryant taking the final shot, you obviously are much better basketball mind then any of these men that get paid millions of dollars to know the NBA game in and out. Look i am not claiming he is a God but when his career is over he will have 6 or 7 championships probably be the leagues alltime scorer and no one will remember or care if went 6 for 24 in game seven back in 2010 only that he won. This is not little league or cub scouts where everybody congratulates you on how hard you tried its the real world in the USA where no matter how much you want to ignore or change things ” we keep score” and only winning counts.

  • Gerry Amaya

    I really enjoyed your article, you make some really valid points, what you forget however is how Boston shut down Lebrick James and Dwight all I can do is dunk Howard.

    You mention all the stats that Gasol had. Why do you think every player on the lakers had those Stats. Boston was so worried about Bryant that they completely forgot about Artest on D. If anything, this make him a great player.

    I truly enjoyed this years finals more than last year. Now it’s only gonna get tougher, can’t wait.