My Thoughts on the Finals


Written by Ian Levy

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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.