Fluky or not, defense has challenged Kobe

DALLAS -- No Western Conference team has held Kobe Bryant to a lower scoring average this season than the Dallas Mavericks.

Kobe averaged 21.7 points in three games against the Mavs, and his 40.7 shooting percentage, well below his 45.1 percent season average, was fourth-lowest against the Mavs among West clubs.

Is that a credit to a defense that has deployed DeShawn Stevenson, Shawn Marion, Jason Kidd and even Rodrigue Beaubois on the five-time champ, or was it just fluky?

"Maybe he just didn't want to shoot those nights," Kidd said, jokingly. "Holding him to 40 percent or under his average, the bottom line is he finds a way for his team to win."

Kidd's theory actually isn't too far off base. Kobe attempted 59 regular-season shots against the Mavs, an average of 19.7 a game, which was his second-lowest number of attempts against teams he faced at least three times. He took 53 shots in three games against the Oklahoma City Thunder but took no fewer than 69 shots against other foes faced at least three times.

Again, is that a credit to the Mavs' defense, or is it just fluky?

"At this point, all this stuff, it's a clean slate, it really doesn't matter," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "How relevant it is, I don't know. There are different things that come into play in the regular season. You've got back-to-backs and injuries and all kinds of other stuff. This is a clean slate, and we're ready to go."

There is more statistical evidence to suggest the Mavs have done as good a job on Bryant as just about anyone in the league. Bryant ranked second in the NBA in transition points, but he averaged more shots in isolation against the Mavs than he did against the rest of the league, and he made a lower percentage of those isolation shots against Dallas than against the rest of the league.

According ESPN Stats & Information, Bryant's field goal percentage on isolation plays against the Mavs was 37.5 percent compared to 44.3 percent against the rest of the league, which ranks fourth in the NBA. Continuing on that theme, Bryant averaged just 4.3 points on shots from 15 feet or more against Dallas, less than half his season average (8.7), and he made just 22 percent on those shots, well below his season average of 36.3 percent.

Again, credit to the defense or fluky? Kidd just knows what the Mavs face starting Monday night at Staples Center.

"We look for him to be aggressive," Kidd said. "He's the best player in the game, so we've got our hands full."