Kobe Bryant was the best passer on the floor during Game 2.
Yes, Steve Nash was still on the floor. And he is still Steve Nash. But Kobe was taking pages right out of the Nash playbook all night long — including one third-quarter play where he was dribbling near the top of the key, nobody rotated on to Pau Gasol after he set the screen then rolled to the hoop (Amare Stoudemire was losing him a lot in the second half) and Kobe did a one-handed, right-out-of-the-dribble pass to Gasol for the layup. It was the kind of pass Nash does better than anyone in the league. But not Wednesday night.
Nash’s gift is his court sense, his vision. When he probes into the paint — especially off the pick-and-roll — he draws help defenders coming to shut him off. Nash’s ability to recognize where the help came from then make the defense pay by hitting that helper’s man with a pass borders on the supernatural.
Kobe was supernatural himself in this one.
If you double-team, you are by definition leaving someone open. In the first half, the Suns sent their help off perimeter players — and Kobe had three assists to Ron Artest on three-pointers. (Artest was even hitting the left corner three, something that he was shooting just 31 percent in the playoffs coming in and Phil Jackson has asked him to take less of. But when they are falling….)
The Suns learned and adjusted. They stopped doubling from the wings in the second half, in fact they didn’t double as aggressively at all. The Lakers ran more pick-and-roll more, and when the Suns defense was slow to rotate help, Kobe picked that apart. He was pinpoint in his passes.
Kevin Arnovitz at TrueHoop breaks this all down in video form — go watch the video that should have general managers around the league debating how much they want to offer Stoudemire on the open market this summer. But those defensive lapses only matter if you can exploit them. And Kobe is a very good passer who can do just that.
Billy Donovan was given the head coaching job in Oklahoma City to bring their offense into modern times — and it seems to be working, Russell Westbrook said he feels a lot more space in the system.
But if the Thunder are going to contend for a title, they need a top 10 defense as well — and to do that Donovan is going to keep a Scott Brooks move and continue to start Andre Roberson and Steven Adams. Check out the starting lineup for their first preseason game Wednesday.
There also was this report via Anthony Slater in the Oklahoman yesterday about a scrimmage at practice.
Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and Andre Roberson all started for the White team. Nick Collison joined them, but that was only because Steven Adams sat out with back soreness….
Donovan said the teams weren’t split by accident. That’s how they’ve been divided in practice. So at this point, it seems Roberson is this team’s starting shooting guard and Adams is the team’s starting center.
This is the smart move. Last season the lineup of Westbrook, Roberson, Durant, Ibaka and Adams was +13.4 points per 100 possessions over their opponents. Roberson and Adams are there for defense — neither brings much offensive game to the floor, but when you have Westbrook and Durant and only one ball between them, you don’t need more offensive threats. You’re going to get plenty of points.
If they can just stay healthy, Oklahoma City is a team to be feared.
The Hall of Fame player behind the original iron man streak is with us no more.
Knicks’ legend Harry Gallatin passes away at age 88, the team confirmed Wednesday.
Gallatin led the Knicks of the late 1940s and into the 1950s, when he set a then record playing in 610 consecutive games. Nicknamed “The Horse,” he was a beast on the boards who averaged 15.3 rebounds a game one season and averaged 11.9 boards and 13 points per game over the course of his 10-year career. He’s still fourth all time in total rebounds in Knicks franchise history.
Gallatin was a seven-time All-Star and twice All-NBA selection. After his playing days, he spent many years as the athletic director at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
Our thoughts are with his family and friends.