There Is The Kobe Bryant We Know And Loathe

Mar 20, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) talks to referee Marat Kogut during a game against the Houston Rockets in the third quarter at the Toyota Center. The Rockets defeated the Lakers 107-104. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-US PRESSWIRE

[Author's Note: Please, please, PLEASE read this post before commenting on it. I do not loathe Kobe Bryant. I love him and am grateful for him being a Laker. There are plenty of other places (coaches, Drew et. al) to place blame for the loss. This is a specific analysis piece, and Kobe is the focus. This is simply an addendum to this post, in which we discussed the difference between bad Kobe and detrimental Kobe, and a reflection that, while his performance last night was slightly better statistically than Sunday's debacle, behaviorally, it was a step in the wrong direction for The Black Mamba]

On Sunday, Kobe Bryant had the kind of game that comes around once every 5-10 years, a game so bad that there were literally no precedents for it in his entire 15 year career. Between the turnovers and missed shots, it's quite possible he has never played worse. After that performance, you might expect Kobe to bring us a much more familiar experience. And so he did, but it wasn't the kind of familiarity we were hoping for.

If Sunday was the ultimate Bad Kobe experience, last night was a much less potent version of the Detrimental Kobe experience with which we are all too familiar. High usage (above 40%), poor shooting (10-27) and take a look at those shot locations...

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That's 14 shots from 16 feet or greater (many of which were contested shots off isolation sets) compared to 13 shots closer in. Yes, I understand that he shot better on longer range shots than he did on short range shots. As I mentioned in the previously linked post, Kobe can take and make bad shots all day long, and miss good shots too, and he did a lot of both last night. He had the same number of assists (4) and just one turnover. He got to the free throw line 7 times, which is in no way terrible. His performance, statistically, was not near as bad last night as it was on Sunday.

But the bottom line is that Sunday's game was an aberration of the highest order, the rare game when Kobe couldn't hit a shot if his life depended on it, no matter what kind of shot he found himself taking. The shots were, for the most part, good looks that he simply missed. Last night's game was much more familiar, a carbon copy of almost every "bad" Kobe Bryant performance that leaves us having to have conversations in which we define the difference between bad and detrimental in the first place.

Or, to put it more simply, if Kobe Bryant weren't the lightening rod of a player he has become over the years through a mixture of success, failure, and unique playing style, Sunday's game would still happen, because it was just a bad (bad, bad, bad) game. Last night's performance, on the other hand, is the reason why these interminable Kobe Bryant debates exist, and will continue to do so.

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