Kobe Bryant's poor shooting past two games reveal a mixed bag in shot selection
The timing couldn't have been more coincidental. After Lakers guard Kobe Bryant signed a three-year extension, he's followed up the past two games shooting 13 of 47 from the field. Those two games surely don't overshadow Bryant's storied 13-year career, which serves as the main reason why the Lakers wanted to secure him to a long-term deal. But Bryant definitely played along and laughed when a reporter joked that maybe management would reconsider the extension after such a poor shooting night last week against Utah.
After breaking out in laughter, Bryant said stoically, "We're pretty good at negotiating."
Bryant's poor shooting isn't entirely anything new. His aggravated right index finger led to a field-goal percentage of 41.2% in January, a figure that worsened partly because of his tendency to shoot the ball even more when his finger was hurt. He also went through a lapse after returning in late February from his left ankle injury that kept him sidelined for five games. After shooting putting together a dazzling 32 points on 13 of 19 shooting and his fifth game winner against Memphis, he came out the following three games with a 19 of 56 (33%) mark from the field.
Of course, injuries aren't entirely anything new. It's why Lakers Coach Phil Jackson suggested Bryant take the summer off. It's why some suggest Bryant, 31, is seeing his skillset drop off. A look at the film of the past two games against Utah and San Antonio reveals a few interesting things. One, even if Bryant's physical skills aren't quite what you saw during his early years, he's showing more basketball intelligence now by directing his offense based on what's happening out on the floor. Still, even with though most of his attempts have been good shots, there are still instances a better alternative is out there. Below is a breakdown of Bryant's misses against Utah and San Antonio, and what to make of them.
Bryant's stat line: 25 points on five of 23 shooting
Bryant's explanation: "I didn't shoot the ball as well as I wanted to. I missed a lot of easy looks tonight."
The breakdown below: Bear in mind that I wasn't able to review six missed shots that took place late in the first quarter and early in the second quarter as well as four plays in the fourth quarter. Perhaps this is a lesson I should DVR the live game and not the taped version on ESPN, knowing the Mothership likes to skip portions of the taped game to quicken the pace. That even included when the Jazz had cut the Lakers' lead to 75-71 in the fourth quarter. Aapparently cutting back on the commercials never crossed their mind.
First quarter, 11:32 - 11:22
Bryant suffocated Utah guard Wesley Matthews on the far end, and stole the ball from him after he picked up his dribble. Bryant brought the ball up the floor, went one-on-one against Matthews at the top of the key and pulled up for a 10-foot jumper just below the paint. The shot rimmed out. Bryant surely had an open look, but Utah's defense didn't collapse on him once he cut through the lane, meaning Bryant easily could've gotten an easy drive to the basket.
First quarter, 7:18 - 7:13
After Ron Artest grabbed a defensive rebound, he led the break as Derek Fisher cut to the near wing and Bryant ran on the far side. Artest fed a bounce pass to Bryant by the left block, and Matthews immediately caught up. Bryant would've driven to the basket for an easy layup, but C.J. Miles stepped into the paint to cut that option off. Instread, Bryant posted up and then attempted a a fadeaway jumper, which hit off the back rim. Although he would've made his finger more vulnerable, Bryant could've still taken it to the rack to try to draw contract, or kicked it out to Fisher, who was wide open on the near corner.
First quarter, 4:39 - 4:24
After Artest grabbed a rebound and gave the ball to Fisher, he pushed the ball to Bryant on the far end near the timeline. After Matthews picked Bryant up behind the three-point line, Lakers forward Pau Gasol set a screen on Matthews on the far end. Utah forward Carlos Boozer maintained proper spacing near the right block and Jazz forward C.J. Miles stepped in on the free-throw line for help. That's why Bryant dribbled toward the corner to ensure better cutting space, as Gasol continued to motion toward Matthews for the screen. Still, Boozer properly marked Gasol and positioned himself to properly switch on Bryant. That's why he declined to run the pick-and-roll. Instead, Bryant looked for an opening on the baseline. Nothing there, so Gasol cut inside while Bryant posted up on Matthews. Bryant took two dribbles in and turned around for the 14-footer, which rimmed out. Though Artest was wide open at the top of the key behind the perimeter, Bryant smartly took the J because Artest has shown the tendency to shoot despite his poor mark from downtown. From a practical standpoint though, Artest could've taken the clear out and quickly made a pass to Fisher, who was wide open on the near corner behind the three-point line.
Second quarter, 2:31 - 2:17
Artest inbounded a pass from the near corner to Fisher, who quickly passed the ball to Lakers forward Lamar Odom up top. Bryant cut to the far end behind the perimeter asking for the ball, but Odom directed him to go to the corner. That's because Odom eyed Gasol, who cut across the lane. After receiving the entry pass, Gasol quickly turned around to scan the Utah defense. Williams guarded the free-throw line, while Matthews moved inside the paint. After feeding the entry pass, Odom set a down screen on Utah guard Ronnie Price near the corner. Bryant flashed up behind the three-point line and received a pass from Gasol. Bryant, with the open three, took it, but the shot hit off the front rim. Artest failed to box out Matthews and he grabbed the board.
Second quarter, :07 - :00
After Gasol grabbed the rebound following Matthew's missed jumper, Bryant sprinted downcourt to the far end behind the three-point line. When he received the pass with 28 seconds remaining, Bryant quickly squared up and let off a 28-foot shot, which hit off the back iron as time expired.
Third quarter, 11:51 - 11:41
After driving through traffic, Artest kicked the ball out to Fisher at the top of the key. After Fisher directed Gasol to the far corner and Artest to the near post, Odom set a screen on the far post on Matthews. Bryant curled up toward the free-throw line and received a pass from Fisher. Bryant pulled up for the jumper, but his shot hit the front rim. It appears on this shot that Bryant didn't get the proper lift before his release.
Third quarter, 6:56 - 6:39
Utah tried running the high screen and roll, but Gasol switched on Williams up top and swiped a bounce pass. Fisher grabbed the loose ball, fed it to Bryant just behind the three-point line and Bryant threw up an alley oop for Gasol. He mishandled the ball, but Bryant grabbed the loose ball by the right block. After doing so, he quickly posted up on Matthews and then turned around for the bank shot and tried to draw contact on Utah center Mehmet Okur but it was unsuccessful. The referees made the right call, but so did Bryant. Sure, his shot was rushed and led to to a Miles layup on the other end. But Bryant simply tried to take advantage of a scrambling Utah defense out of sorts, and thought a drive to the basket could create some contact. After all, that strategy worked on the following play when Bryant drew a foul on Miles after attempting a three-pointer.
Third quarter, 6:01 - 5:52
After Fisher missed a three-pointer, Gasol swiped the ball away from Miles and the Lakers regained possession. Lakers forward Josh Powell passed the ball to Artest, who quickly dished to Bryant at the top of the key. He had a wide open lane to the basket before Okur cut Bryant off in the paint. Bryant spun around Okur and then took a fadeaway jumper. The shot hit off the backboard, and Bryant appeared to favor his left ankle after he landed. Bryant could've started off with a better angle directly to the basket had he taken one step left. Although this isn't definitive and it's unknown if Bryant would actually admit it, but his reluctance to drive to the basket could've been because of his fear that his right index finger would get whacked.
Third quarter, 5:40 - 5:37
After passing to Gasol on the left block, Bryant cut in paint and cleared a lane for Gasol to drive by cutting inside and bunching up Miles and Okur to think he was setting a screen. With Okur staying below the free-throw line and Miles locking in on Bryant, Gasol had the angle to drive to the right and pull up for a jumper just below the foul line. The shot rimmed out, but Bryant weaved past Miles toward the basket for the tip in. The putback attempt fell short because Bryant mistimed the ball's bounce off the rim.Lakers' 100-81 loss to San Antonio Spurs
Bryant's stat line: 22 points on eight of 24 shooting
Bryant's explanation: "I just missed some opportunities. I can live with that. If I get those looks in the playoff series, I'll take my chances."
The breakdown below: I correctly DVRed the live game this time. But feel free to use this to fuel your hatred toward the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics. Their matchup ate into most of the first quarter, meaning I couldn't rewatch Bryant's first four missed field-goal attempts in the entire first quarter.
Second quarter, 7:39 - 7:18
This play became an example of the Lakers effectively running the triangle, but San Antonio reacting with precision. After feeding Bryant in the near post. Artest's cut inside drew San Antonio forward Matt Bonner to the paint, creating an opening for Bryant perhaps to go one-on-one against Spurs guard Keith Bogans. As soon as Bryant squared up, San Antonio guard Roger Mason Jr. stepped down from the free-throw line to help. The Spurs' Dejuan Blair, Manu Ginobili and Matt Bonner each flooded the paint, leaving Artest open on the far corner. Bryant kicked the ball out to Artest, who immediately fed Gasol on the far post. Gasol drew a double team from Ginobili and kicked it out at the top of the key to Lakers forward Luke Walton. He made a quick pass to Sasha Vujacic, who found Bryant open in the corner. There was only one second remaining, and Ginobili and Bonner rushed out to contest the shot. Bryant let out a shot, but it hit the side of the backboard.
Second quarter, 2:34 - 2:26
With Bryant manning the point, Gasol set a high screen and roll at the top of the key on Ginobili, but he didn't angle himself properly. Bryant crossed over and pretended to go left so that Gasol has time to switch over the other side and set a screen on Ginoboli's right. Bryant drove off the screen, and forward Tim Duncan gave him the space to shoot an elbow jumper. Bryant took the shot, but it hit off the rim. That wasn't a bad shot selection, though Fisher and Artest were also open on the perimeter.
Second quarter, 1:55 - 1:46
Bryant grabbed the board after Ginobili's missed layup attempt and brought the ball up the floor. Jefferson marked Bryant on the far end as he dribbled between his legs a few times before crossing over and driving baseline. After Jefferson got beat, Bonner stepped up to help, but Bryant still shot a leaner that ultimately hits the side of the basket. The Lakers didn't run the triangle, allowing Bryant to try to create in isolation, but he forced the issue.
Third quarter, 11:33 - 11:27
Fisher passed to Artest as he cut across the free-throw line. He then squared up in triple threat position, while Fisher set a downscreen on Bogans and Bryant flashed toward the nearside perimeter. Artest dumped the ball off to Bryant as he penetrated. After getting the ball, Bryant dribbled toward the top of the key, squared up above the semicircle and settled for a 20-footer. The shot hit off the front rim. It was a good look, but with Bryant's shot not falling , he should've settled. That would've allowed the offense to develop in hopes that there would be an opportunity to feed the post.
Third quarter, 8:10 - 8:00
With eight seconds left on the shot clock, Gasol tried to set a screen on Bogans, but Bryant waved it off for a simple reason. Duncan didn't move out, meaning any separation Gasol could create inside would be very minimal. It also meant Duncan could have cut him along the baseline or in the paint if Bryant decided to drive to the rack. The entire San Antonio defense collapsed in the paint, leaving Artest open at the top of the key. But Bryant took his chances and drove baseline. He beat Bogans off the dribble and Duncan didn't surround Bryant right away so he attempted a 10-footer along the wing. The shot hit off the back rim just before the shot clock expired.
Third quarter, 7:31 - 7:24
With Odom controlling the ball up top, Gasol set a back screen on Bogans and Bryant cut toward the free-throw line. After receiving a pass from Odom, Bryant cut toward the lane, took one dribble and pulled up for a bank shot over Duncan. He stayed in the air for too long presumably in hopes to draw contact. But the shot didn't go in because he didn't get the proper lift. Although Bryant had a good look, a better option would've entailed passing to Gasol backdoor once Duncan tried cutting Bryant off from driving through the lane.
Third quarter, 7:01 - 6:58Gasol set a pick on Spurs forward Richard Jefferson, and Duncan approached Bryant to deny him a drive to the basket. With enough room to shoot a jumper and little movement among his teammates, Bryant took the 20-footer but the shot doesn't fall in. Duncan grabs the board, fires a cross-court pass to Jefferson and he converts on the easy layup, giving San Antonio a 57-44 lead.
Third quarter, 5:15 - 4:56
Odom drove the lane, but was greeted with a double team from Ginobili and Duncan so he kicked the ball out to Artest at the top of the key. He swung the ball to Fisher, who pump faked and then passed to Bryant on the far corner. He pump faked on Spurs forward Antonio McDyess, drove baseline and then kicked the ball out to Artest on the near side behind the perimeter. His three-pointer fell short, but Bryant batted away the loose ball from Jefferson, Gasol dove on the floor and the ball rolled toward Odom at the top of the key. Bryant remained open on the far end behind the three-point line. After Bryant received the pass, he hoisted a three-pointer over McDyess and the shot rimmed out. ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy analyzed the aforementioned play perfectly: "In the first sequence right there, great extra passes thrown by all perimeter players on the Lakers. On that last shot, I thought Bryant should've punched it to Fisher, who I think had a better quality look at the three-point shot."
Fourth quarter, 11:31 - 11:19
At the top of the key, Gasol set a screen on Mason Jr. for Lakers guard Jordan Farmar. Though Gasol set the pick on Mason Jr's right, Farmar drove left and dumped it up off to Bryant, who cut up top from the corner. Farmar's decision looked like the right one, with Mason Jr. switching toward Farmar and Gasol setting another screen on Spurs guard Malik Hairston. Bryant took the open three-pointer at the top of the key, but the shot rimmed out. It was a good look, but Bryant could've fed Gasol inside off the pick-and-roll. That attempt marked Bryant's eighth consecutive missed shot.
Fourth quarter, 8:49 - 8:40
Bryant grabbed the rebound after Duncan's missed jumper and ran the floor. Going one-on-one against Jefferson, Bryant dribbled between his legs and then settled for an elbow jumper. This shot fell short and it appeared again that he doesn't get much lift on the shot.
Fourth quarter, 3:55 - 3:51
Bryant brought the ball up the floor and passed the ball to Artest, who immediately dumped it back to Bryant on the far side of the court. Meanwhile, Artest stood near Bryant to create separation on Hairston. Bryant recognized the move, launched a 28-foot three-pointer and the shot hit back iron. Okay, so the Spurs were leading 90-75 in the final minutes of the game. But from a practical standpoint, the Lakers had plenty of time on the shot clock (20 seconds) and the team didn't even have time to set up the offense.
Fourth quarter, 2:00 - 1:52
With Hairston guarding Bryant at the top of the key, Powell set a back screen and Bryant switched his dribble from left to right. To create even more leverage, Powell set a high screen on Hairston, Bryant curled around and then weaved through Duncan and Bogans at the free-throw lone. His learner rimmed out, despite the good look.
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Photo: Jazz center Mehmet Okur slows down Lakers guard Kobe Bryant on a drive by fouling him in the second half Friday night. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times.
Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant fights for room to shoot over Jazz guard Ronnie Price in the first half Friday night. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times.
Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant makes a pass after driving around San Antonio power forward Tim Duncan in the first half Sunday. Credit: Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times.