The end of the Lakers win over Oklahoma City was the latest Rorschach test for whether or not you think Kobe Bryant is a clutch player.
Kobe scored seven of the Lakers final 10 points (all the others were Pau Gasol free throws) and he pushed the Lakers to a 90-87 win on the road. But he shot just 2-of-6 late in the game, had a key turnover and took over the Laker offense as they abandoned the triangle for a lot of Kobe trying to do it all.
So is Kobe clutch? That misses the point.
The Lakers beat the Thunder again because they cranked up the defense and held the Thunder to 31 points in the second half. Total. The Thunder shot 44.7 percent for the game.
That’s really what it all about for the Lakers. Whether they run the triangle and Pau Gasol is hitting cutters with passes out of the high post, or if Kobe is just going rogue and launching contested bombs, the Lakers are going to score.
The question is are they focused enough to stop you from scoring? They looked old and tired at the end of their Grammy road trip, but since getting a few days off All-Star weekend to rest their old legs the Lakers are 4-0. And defending well.
This game really tells us little about what would happen if these two teams hook up again in the playoffs because we don’t know what the Thunder will look like with Kendrick Perkins in the paint. He will certainly make life harder for Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, the Lakers bigs will dominate the game as they tend to against when these teams meet up.
But will that matter if the Lakers can hold Kevin Durant to 21 points on 8-of-20 shooting? That is why you see Russell Westbrook try to take over more against the Lakers, because L.A. is one of the few teams that can make it very hard on Durant (and you see him miss good looks at game winners). And until the Thunder can do something about that this series will continue to be dominated by the Lakers.
We had an efficient Carmelo Anthony sighting in the preseason.
Anthony and the Knicks went up against the Wizards and ‘Melo hit 10-of-15 shots to score 21 points. He also had four rebounds and four assists.
Derrick Williams had 23 points on 11 shots to lead the Knicks in scoring, and New York won 115-104.
There’s this overplayed angle talked about by some fans and pundits suggesting the Warriors just got lucky last season — for example, they faced a banged-up Rockets’ team in the conference finals then a Cavaliers’ squad without two of their big three through the Finals. Then there was Clippers’ coach Doc Rivers saying the Warriors were lucky not having to play the Clippers or Spurs in the postseason.
The Warriors are sick of hearing they were lucky.
Friday Klay Thompson fired back at Rivers, via CSNBayArea.com.
– “I wanted to play the Clippers last year, but they couldn’t handle their business.”
– “If we got lucky, look at our record against them last year (Warriors 3-1). I’m pretty sure we smacked them.”
– “Didn’t they lose to the Rockets? Exactly. So haha. That just makes me laugh. That’s funny. Weren’t they up 3-1 too?”
– “Yeah, tell them I said that. That’s funny. That’s funny.”
Warriors big man Andrew Bogut phrased it differently.
If you think the Warriors just won because they were lucky — you are dead wrong.
They were the best team in the NBA last season, bar none. They won 67 regular season games in a tough conference, then beat everyone in their path to win a title. Did they catch some breaks along the way, particularly with health? You bet. Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and Kobe Bryant didn’t win a title without catching some breaks along the way, either. Nobody does. Luck plays a role, but it was not the primary factor in why the Warriors are champs.
All this talk of them getting lucky is fuel for the fire they needed not to be complacent this season. Way to give the defending champs bulletin board material, Doc.