I know this might come off as a defense of Kobe Bryant… and I guess it sort of is in a way. But one thing that I can't stand even more than Kobe is the knee-jerk reaction to something like the game he had last night.
Take, for example, Bill Plaschke… who writes this today:
hottest-shooting team in NBA Finals history, yet still tied it up in
the final three minutes.
Then Bryant gasped.
The Lakers still had a chance in the final minute, trailing by a basket with their best player dribbling the ball.
Then Bryant coughed.
The ending was remarkable in that, this being the first Finals win in
Magic franchise history, Amway Arena was filled with falling confetti
and the incessant wail of a foghorn.
It was also remarkable in that the game's best closer was just too darn exhausted to do anything about it.
Or Adrian Wojnarowski on Yahoo
Everything had changed in these NBA Finals, and deep down Bryant
understood that all those minutes, all those games over the past two
years – with the Lakers, with Team USA – take a toll. He reached back
in Game 3, and a most unsettling truth washed over him: Even with 31
points and eight assists, the burst wasn’t there for Bryant.
Truth be told, Bryant was beat.
Willing heart, wobbly legs.
Maybe Kobe was a little gassed at the end of Game 3… but who isn't at that point? But the point of those pieces… and the countless others like them… is that Kobe is run down from two full finals runs and the Olympics. As much as I'd like to believe that… I just don't think it's true. If he was run down, he wouldn't have gone INTO Denver in Game 6 and shot 60%. He wouldn't have taken over games down the stretch like he did in Game 2.
But what these pieces don't seem to consider at all, is that sometimes even superstars miss shots. Sometimes, even superstars turn it over in the clutch. It happens. And it happened last night. The Magic played some good defense. Courtney Lee stepped up. And Kobe Bryant had a bad game.
Why am I saying all this? Why am I, the biggest Laker/Kobe hater around, defending him from the "is he run down" stuff?
Because if the Magic and Magic fans believe it, then they're gonna get smoked in game 4… and Kobe will shoot 50% while dropping 45. If the Magic approach the game as if Kobe is gassed, then he'll dominate them in every possible way and we're going to be looking at another blowout.
And THEN, these same writers who were wrong will assume they were right… and we'll be deluged by stories that Kobe is "overcoming fatigue" to lead the Lakers to a win. I won't be able to handle that kind of onslaught of Kobe loving. So I
feel like I have to defend him now, so hopefully I don't have to endure
worse craziness later.
Kobe got tired at the end of an NBA game like a normal human being… and when he tried to be Kobe, he missed a few shots. That's it. If Kobe was really fatigued and hitting a wall… we would have seen some more evidence before last night. But he's shooting 45.6% in the series. His season average was 46%. He's never missed more that 2 free throws in a game this post season. Missing 5 last night was an aberration… not part of a trend.
So believe Kobe has hit a wall at your own peril. But if I were you, Orland Magic and their fans, I'd be approaching this as if Kobe is still Kobe. To paraphrase some wise men, don't believe today's hype.