It’s a debate as circular and weary as congressional budget battles (whichever party doesn’t have the president is suddenly filled with deficit hawks, not so much when there guy is in there).
Is Kobe Bryant clutch?
Other NBA players say yes. When polled by Sports Illustrated and asked to anonymously say who they would want taking the last shot, 74 percent of the 166 players surveyed said Kobe.
Followed by Kevin Durant (8 percent), Dwyane Wade (3 percent), Ray Allen and Dirk Nowitzki 2 percent each).
Knicks fans will note that Jared Jeffries and Bill Walker are not on this list.
We’ve been down the road before showing you numbers that say Kobe is not as clutch as you think he is. He hits a lot of key shots, but he takes and misses a lot more. But then you get into how to define clutch. And questions like does leading a team to rings count as clutch?
Circular argument. I’d rather watch him, and just enjoy what he brings. Because he is one of the all-time greats and we are not going to have him around to wow us that much longer.
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.