The Heat’s victory over the Lakers on Thursday was a huge win for them, for a variety of reasons. Miami was getting killed by the national media for being a team that appeared to be coming apart at the seams, and one that couldn’t come through in close games. But the Heat snapped their five-game losing streak in spectacular fashion, taking down a peaking Lakers team that came in riding an eight-game winning streak.
On a night when LeBron James was subpar, Chris Bosh stepped up on the offensive end, and Dwyane Wade simply took the game over for Miami down the stretch.
It was a big, big win for the Heat. Yet all anyone wanted to talk about afterward was Kobe Bryant.
The fact that long after the game Bryant took to the court to get in an unusual (and relatively public) late night workout on Miami’s arena floor was cause for plenty of discussion. But of more importance to the game’s final result was the issue of Bryant taking some extremely questionable shots late that ended up costing the Lakers the game.
There were two shots in particular that seemed to cause the most commotion, but the first (and by most accounts, the most egregious) came with the Lakers trailing by two and 1:06 remaining. L.A. had the ball out of bounds, and a fresh 24 on the shot clock. The pass went in to Bryant, and he immediately rose up for a twisting, fading, three-point attempt — again, with a full 24 seconds on the shot clock — and with Wade heavily contesting.
Wade was credited with the block, and the shot fell short into the hands of Ron Artest, who couldn’t convert at the rim. Miami rebounded, and Wade’s driving layup at the other end made it a two-possession game, and the Lakers were effectively finished.
Most watching felt the shot by Bryant was ridiculous and unconscionable given the circumstances. But when you hear him explain his line of thinking to T.J. Simers of the L.A. Times afterward, all of a sudden it doesn’t sound so insane.
“I wasn’t as off balance as you think; take a look at the replay,” he said. “I told Ron [Artest] to put it right there in that spot in the corner so I could raise up and shoot. I didn’t think Wade would expect that.
“The clock doesn’t make a difference; if you can knock it down you take it. We had the rebounding position underneath. My guys knew I was going to take it. It just didn’t go.”
Bryant’s logic here is pretty sound, even if his sense of team basketball or what constitutes a quality shot might not be.
Bryant felt his defender wouldn’t be expecting that shot in that situation, which, had he been right, would have in fact been a significant advantage. Bryant’s assertion that the clock doesn’t matter is the thing that most take issue with, but if you can get a good look at a shot that you’ve been able to knock down consistently (and it’s not a final possession, end-of-game situation), he’s right.
Finally, this wasn’t a wild heave against the wishes of his head coach and teammates. (Well, it might have been, but Bryant said they were expecting it.) If indeed the Lakers had the advantage in rebounding positioning (which, judging by the fact that the blocked shot landed in the hands of Artest, they did), and his teammates were aware that his launching of that fadeaway three was the plan, then at least the decision to take this kind of shot now makes a little more sense, no?
Maybe. But it was still a terrible shot.