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Lakers 108, Miami 107: Game winning shot strengthens Kobe Bryant's All Star bid

December 5, 2009 |  1:36 am
Because you'd rather watch this guy...

...instead of these guys...

Kamenetzkys Acting Stupid

...we'll skip the traditional video introduction. Breakdown below...


     -Kobe Bryant: Ironically, the guy almost walked away more "goat" than G.O.A.T., having air-balled into a 24 second violation with twenty-five seconds remaining. (And lest any wigs be flipped, no, Bryant wouldn't have literally been the goat, as the Lakers were hardly forging one for the time capsule before Kobe's miss, but I found the phrasing a fairly clever play on words, so I ran with it. Calm down.) Then came the "Off-Balance Running Bank Shot Off The Wrong Foot Heard Around The World"- known from here on out as O.B.R.B.S.O.T.W.F.H.A.T.W, because that's very easy to remember- which even Bryant couldn't believe dropped through the cylinder.

"It was the luckiest shot I've ever taken. By far," smiled Bryant. 

But even if Kobe gives more credit to a rabbit's foot hidden somewhere inside Staples Center than his own skill set, the shot was nonetheless jaw dropping- the kids absolutely dig it- a dramatic capper for a night already chock full of big plays: 

    Another buzzer beater before halftime, falling backwards (and eventually on his butt) while losing his balance amidst Miami bodies in the lane. A stretching layup with his legs undercut and body upended as Jermaine O'Neal was called for blocking. Getting Dorrell Wright to take his pump fake bait before rising to can the "and one" jumper. Hitting a similar shot when Wright didn't leave his feet.  A trey drilled in Michael Beasley's face. A gorgeous lefty hook after flashing across the lane to receive the perfect feed from Ron Artest. Throw in how well he defended- and drew fouls against- Dwyane Wade, who made some big plays down the stretch but also shot just 7-21 with 24 largely hounding him, and this rounded out to yet another notch on Kobe's belt, which is big enough by now to fit around Fat Albert's waist. Twice.

    And speaking of big moments, Derek Fisher's overall effort was something of a mixed bag, particularly in the area of shot selection. But we wouldn't even be analyzing a Laker win without his clutch three pointer with four seconds remaining.  Something about that particular number (4) seems to bring out the best in Fisher. Point four. Fourth quarter, where he grabbed an offensive rebound in traffic that set up another of Kobe's key buckets. Say what you want about Fisher's streak shooting and often maddening forays to the hoop,but if the game's on the line, damn right I want the dude on my side.  And credit his accountability, nothing after the game that "had I hit a couple more earlier in the game, we wouldn't have been in that situation."

    -Pau Gasol: 22 points on 8-16 shooting, eight rebounds and, most notably, one very swollen eye, courtesy of an inadvertent kick to the face from Lamar Odom (who else?). Gasol also attracted an elbow or two from backup center/first string goon Jamal Magloire, which prompted some jawing from El Spaniard (who also got a little chippy with Anthony Randolph last Saturday against Golden State). Gasol absorbed more than his share of blows and may not have re-entered the game so quickly after his peeper injury had LO not gotten the heave ho. But that's how the ball bounces sometimes, and Gasol's "teeth grit" factor was pretty admirable during the game's final minutes.

    -Turnovers: Only seven on the night, and just one in the first half.  Whenever the A-Game is absent, clearly the case tonight, carelessness with the ball (or the reverse) can often be the difference between getting by and coming up just short. Safe to say, a few more gaffes with the rock would have likely cooked the Lakers' goose. 



Kobe, because you shouldn't have to scroll all the way down, given what he did tonight:


This is one I really want to see again on the DVR replay. There were definitely some poor moments, and the Lakers weren't clicking Friday like they had the previous seven games in the winning streak, but at the same time, not everything was cut and dried. So everything you'll read below has something of a built in caveat. Did Derek Fisher play well? Not really. 4-10 shooting, 1-4 from downtown, three turnovers against three dimes. At the same time, he hit the uber-clutch three with 4.3 left, and Kobe doesn't hit his incredible and-one over Jermaine O'Neal in the fourth without Fisher gathering the board off Kobe's missed shot seconds before. 

You see where I'm going with this. 

    -Fourth Quarter Pick and Roll Defense: For much of the game, the Lakers did well to keep the Heat, and particularly Dwyane Wade, out of the paint. Wade was only 2-9 in the first half, and as a team Miami was outscored in the paint 38-20. They lived on jumpers, which to their credit they hit, but the Lakers can live with that. As the game progressed, though, Miami began to extend the screens higher up the floor, forcing LA's bigs to either come out in space to try to trap or force the ball from Wade's hands, or clog the lane once Wade arrived. Too often, the Lakers did the latter, and Wade picked them apart. 20 points, fueled by 14 trips to the line. As a team, Miami won the final quarter in the paint, 14-8.

Kobe and Fish both gave credit to Miami coach Erik Spoelstra for springing Wade with a change in strategy late in the fourth (instead of using a big to screen, the Heat ran their pick and roll using both guards). It caught the Lakers flat-footed, and got them what they needed. 

    -Shooting: Here's an area, two huge triples in the final five seconds notwithstanding, where the Lakers struggled all night. Ron Artest was 4-17 from the floor, Shannon Brown 1-5, Fish 4-10. Overall, the Lakers were 3-15 from beyond the arc for the first 47:56 of the contest. Good looks didn't go down, bad looks didn't go down. Really, they seemed to do better with circus shots, like the one Kobe hit at the end of the first half, bouncing off contact and fading away along the baseline. That was pretty sick. Even Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, who combined to shoot 50% on 30 shots between them, still missed a few chippies over smaller opponents. LA's struggles to get the ball to fall were appropriate on a night where nothing seemed to come easy. Fish found himself on the wrong end of multiple collisions, Gasol was hit in the face at least three times, including once by Lamar Odom, and (not to sound like a shill for the home team) it really did seem like the Heat scored perhaps a dozen points off broken plays.

    -Lamar Odom: He had as many ejections as field goals. Since you can only get kicked out of a game one time, I'll let you figure out how many buckets he produced. On the incident that got him kicked out- a second technical with 5:07 to go- Lakers fans will say O'Neal intentionally wrapped his legs around Odom after a dunk. Heat loyalists will claim he was merely hanging on the rim in an effort not to come down on L.O. Either way, Odom needed to keep his composure, and not get baited into a shoving match. To that point, though, he'd only played about 21 minutes, reflective of a scattered, uneven game. 


    -BMX? Really? Seriously? In the videos above, Kobe attributes his ability to hit this particular kind of shot, moving hard in one direction, shooting behind himself in the other, draws on experience riding BMX bikes as a kid. As he told it, Kobe and his buddies would toss pebbles at telephone poles as they rode by, the stakes being candy or pop. It's a wonderful story, full of charm and innocence. But seriously, Kobe, as you slipped after receiving the inbound, found yourself double teamed by Wade and Udonis Haslem, moved hard to your left and leaped back to shoot over the oustretched arm of Wade, were you really thinking, "This is just like those times I used to throw pebbles at telephone poles on my BMX bike as a kid!" Really? Like Luke Skywalker hearkening back to his days picking off womp rats in Beggar's Canyon on his way to blowing up the Death Star? He admits the shot was lucky, but the athleticism it took to get the ball even in the vicinity of the rim- let alone in it- is pretty staggering.

I'm not calling him a liar... but frankly, people, I'm just not buying this explanation. Wonderful copy, no question, but there's an element of hokum in there, I gotta think. Thus, I'm going with "there's not a shot on the planet I haven't practiced in one form or another. Literally none. You see this shot? I spent a summer working on that, but never bothered filming it" as an explanation of how that ball went down. On the other hand, it did give me a chance to ask one of the greatest basketball players to ever walk the planet a question referencing the BMX classic Rad. For that, I'm eternally grateful.



Fish, on the value of a tough win:

On his clutch three, and Kobe's as well:

Artest, on Kobe's game winner:

PJ on the game:

Bynum, on Kobe's shot, the game generally: