There were two points in Henry Abbott's post at TrueHoop Friday afternoon. The first surrounds the popular notion crowning Kobe Bryant the NBA's best clutch performer, and Abbott's belief the numbers say unequivocally he's not.Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Kobe Bryant was again a lightning rod for debate following Sunday's loss to Boston. Won't be the last time, I'm sure.
From a percentage standpoint, Abbott is right, but as I wrote following our podcast with Henry on the subject, I don't think straight make/miss counts are a great metric for measuring "clutch." There are too many variables impossible to quantify in what are still very small sample sizes. Bryant has certainly missed in make-or-break moments, but he's also delivered. He's clearly clutch, as it's traditionally defined. The clutchest? Who knows? He's plenty clutch, which is all that matters.
Abbott's second point, much more important as a practical matter but overshadowed by the Kobe-clutch debate, addresses the drop in L.A.'s offensive efficiency in late-game situations (larger in relative terms than most teams around the NBA), and how the Lakers, like most teams, operate at that point in games.
One of the major narratives surrounding the end of Sunday's game in Boston was whether Bryant shot his teammates out of the game, down the stretch in particular but even earlier because teammates didn't get enough touches to stay in rhythm. Without totally rehashing what I wrote following the loss, I thought Kobe's shot selection was very good early, and while he clearly forced shots late, his teammates did little to assert themselves throughout -- or as Phil Jackson said: "I don't think anybody else wanted the ball." In broad terms it was a great example of league-wide trend favoring isolation-heavy offense in late-game situations, a fourth quarter "hero ball" mentality across the NBA.
Generally speaking, isos are an inefficient way to score, meaning the Lakers, like most teams, would be better served to keep a broader playbook available down the stretch to maximize their good looks at the basket.
Regardless of where you come down on Abbott's evaluation of Kobe in the clutch, it's worth reading his follow up from Monday afternoon on TrueHoop, and also some very interesting work from Rob Mahoney of TheTwoManGame.com (among other sites), writing here for the New York Times. Mahoney has some great video clips showing key sequences of the game, and his overall points about the inefficiency of iso-heavy offense are compelling.