While there’s progress happening among the Jazz’s younger players, evidenced so clearly in the team’s road win over the Lakers on Sunday night, there is a better explanation and more pronounced formula for beating L.A. than any kind of successful youth movement.
It goes like this: Bother Kobe Bryant, and keep him bothered. Then, let him bother himself.
It helps to cover him well, and when younger players give aid in that regard, good on them. But sometimes Kobe simply vacates the premises, missing shots he normally makes, regardless of pressured coverage, and allowing his emotions to remove him even more from any positive contribution to his team.
That’s exactly what occurred in the Jazz’s latest victory, when Bryant made just 3 of 20 shots, putting up routine attempts mixed in with some crazy junk, and it’s what’s happened in most of their wins over the Lakers the last few years.
If Kobe shoots well, the Jazz are dead. If he doesn’t, the Jazz win.
Kobe usually shoots well. Over the teams’ past 24 games, both regular season and playoffs, the Lakers have won 17 of them.
In those victories, Bryant has made 157 of 316 attempts, just shy of 50 percent. And that includes one major anomaly in this equation — a Lakers win back in April, 2009, when Kobe threw up 23 shots and made just five.
In the seven Jazz wins, he hit only 51 of 156 attempts, including a 5-for-24 performance in the 2009 playoffs that enabled Utah to pull out its one victory in a five-game series.
Kobe has a way of scoring points even when his shot is off because he’s so adept at drawing fouls and then making his free throws. But when he’s righteously not feeling it, forget about it. That was on display Sunday night at Staples Center as Bryant repeatedly bricked shots the Jazz have seen him make through the years, including a huge 3 at the end.
If his game had been halfway on, it would have more than covered the four-point margin.
Strong team defense helped the Jazz, and they did a nice job of that. Clutch shooting kicked in, too. But it was obvious from start to finish Sunday that Kobe was suffering one of those vexing spells — he turned the ball over seven times — and that because he was missing his shots, the Jazz would have their own terrific shot at winning.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Gordon Monson Show” weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 AM The Zone. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @GordonMonson.