I am a Kobe fan; I admire his will to win and willingness to put the team on his shoulders when it comes down to it (as compared to, ahem, certain other MVP-level wing players).
And of course
if you have a Bryant level talent, going down the stretch you want to start your sets with the ball in his hands.
But sometimes Kobe goes into hero mode and makes bad plays, pure and simple.
The problem is what Kobe does when teams run at him, especially if they trap him when the clock gets down under 12 or so. There are times in the game when the team is stagnant for whatever reason, and someone's gotta take the shot, and Kobe is the best person for that shot. But that's earlier in the game. You cannot afford to do that in crunchtime. In crunchtime, you have to get the entire team involved because if it becomes clear that Kobe's going to take the shot teams will defense for it until the Lakers figure out how to move the ball out of it.It is sometimes in these situations that Kobe is hesitant to move the ball and takes the hero shot, either because he's waited too long to move the ball or because he honestly at that time doesn't have faith in his teammates to make the open shot.
In the stretch run of the game yesterday, you saw Bad Kobe and Good Kobe. Beginning around say 5:00 or so, there were two or three straight possessions in which the Lakers ran a high iso, and Kobe pounded the ball down to about :10 on the clock and then didn't move it, ended up either turning it over or taking a bad shot. Bad Kobe.
Fortunately Denver didn't do much to capitalize -- they were able to get even but didn't get ahead (on that long 2 Galinari shot from the left wing where his foot was on the line).
After that, though, the Lakers switched from a 1-2-2 iso with Kobe on top and began running screens for him at the elbow, and on these plays he was able to pass out of the double and get open wing shots from Sessions and Blake.Good Kobe.
If the Lakers went down into the post to either their 4 or 5 even once down the stretch, that would force the defense to collapse. To do this in a situation where you're trying to run clock, you have to start the play earlier, and you have to have faith that the big will pass back out effectively if the defense collapses and he doesn't have a good matchup. Sometimes it seems like Kobe lacks faith that the ball will come back out if it should in these situations, and that's maybe why it doesn't go in.
But the Lakers have to take advantage of this if they are going to go far in these playoffs. Kobe is no longer a player that can take every key shot going down the stretch in a whole series. He doesn't have the lift or the first step to do this at will anymore, and because he so often tries to overpower double- and triple-teams in these situations, he quite frankly doesn't draw quite as many calls in this sort of situation any more, nor should he.
Maybe it's just that the Lakers don't have a Horry or a Fisher out on the wing anymore, a guy everyone has faith in to take the open 20-footer, in crunchtime, with the clock heading toward :00.
But the team is going to have to develop players who can fill that role for the Lakers to go deep. You saw it last night -- if Blake doesn't step up, they may not win that game.