Monday, January 12, 2009

Wade vs Kobe

There was some hype going into last night’s Heat versus Lakers game that featured the two premiere shooting guards facing off in Los Angeles. There was added intrigue for Lakers fans, due to the Heat being one of only 6 other teams who have beaten the reigning Western Conference champs.

The game featured the league’s top (Wade) and third leading scorer (Bryant) butting heads. Literally. Wade finished the game with an ice pack on his head and Bryant had to have 4 stitches above his right eye. It was a gritty matchup, unlike their high-scoring affair three Christmas' ago.

The Heat stayed in the game thanks to the hot shooting of rookie Michael Beasley who drilled 10-16 shots for 23 points and the three point accuracy of Daequan Cook who shot 5-9 from downtown. Looked like he got his wrist slapped at the end of the game, but I see that happen to Kobe all the time, so, no harm no foul I guess. The Lakers stayed in the game thanks to Andrew Bynum's 24 points and Fish's 11 assists and Pau's 18 rebounds.

As far as the main event matchup is concerned, if you were to simply check the box score, you would read that Kobe got badly outplayed by Wade. Flash finished with 27 points, 9 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks, shooting 10-22 from the field.

On the other side of things, the reigning MVP made only 5-14 shots, finishing with 19 points, 7 assists, and 2 rebounds with no steals or blocks.

What the boxscore does not tell, is that Kobe, despite the poor shooting night, had the better night of the two. While Wade was pretty much asked to do everything, it was obvious that Kobe’s main responsibility was to stop Wade. #24 was up in #3’s jersey from the moment the ball was inbounded on every single Heat possession. Wade’s going to be smelling Bryant’s sweat at least until Miami plays Minny on Tuesday.

Both star guards played the entire first quarter. During that quarter, Wade shot 3-6, with a turnover and 2 assists. Kobe, amassed 6 assists and but only 3 points on one attempt.

Kobe and Wade both sat out at the beginning of the second quarter. Lakers had a 26-21 lead, and carried that until Wade entered at 8:08. At about the 7 minute mark, with Kobe still on the bench, Wade goes on a tear and proceeds to hit a 3 pointer, 2 freethrows and a 21-foot jumper to tie the game at 34-34. Overall, he’s 2-3 from the field.

At 5:33 of the second quarter, Kobe checks back in. With Kobe hounding him again, Wade finishes the quarter with a made bucket, 2 assists and 2 turnovers.

In the first half, while going up against Bryant, Wade shot 4-7, with 3 turnovers and 4 assists. When Kobe was out, Wade shot 2-3, with a pair of made freethrows.

The third quarter began with both playing the entire 12 minutes. With Kobe hounding him again, Wade misses all four of his attempts and the Heat’s 1 point lead vanishes into a 60-73 lead for the Lakers. At the 2:30 mark, Wade puts the team on his back and scores a layup and draws a foul on Gasol for the and-one. He gets to the line again for two more freethrows. Then misses another shot. For the quarter, Kobe went 4-7 from the field and 1-1 from the line with 1 assist. Wade shot 1-6 and 3-3 from the line with no assists. The Lakers carry a 71-77 lead into the fourth quarter.

In the fourth, Wade and Kobe both sit. Wade enters first at the 9:33 mark. In the span of a minute, from 8:25 to 7:24, Wade scores 7 points, all while Bryant is still riding pine. His flurry turns a 77-85 lead for the Lakers into a 3-point game 82-85.

Kobe Bryant enters at 7:11 and Wade doesn’t score the rest of the way shooting 0-4. He does, however, amass 4 assists in the final 7 minutes of play, with 3 in a row that helped knot the game at 102. But he doesn’t score, nor does he get to the line.

With Kobe manning Wade up, Flash shot 5-17 from the field, hit 3-3 freethrows for 13 points and had 8 dimes to 3 turnovers. When Trevor Ariza or Sasha Vujacic was covering Wade, Flash was 5-5 from the field, 3-4 from the line for 14 points and had one assist and no turnovers.

Basically, Kobe forced Wade, pretty much all by his lonesome (I mean, he did get help defense) to become a distributor while he was guarding him. On the flipside, Kobe was constantly seeing double teams, and while Flash did guard Kobe throughout the game, Kobe saw Marion down the stretch.

So, while the final box score heavily favors Flash, it was Mamba who was the silent killer and the main reason the Lakers were able to pull this game out. He played some mean, mean defense tonight, and was a huge reason why his team won despite his putrid 35 percent from the field.

More and more evidence that box scores barely tell half the story.

Above all, this game was a unique testament to the greatness of two players, displayed in completely different ways. Wade showed his brilliance by scoring half of his 27 points in the tiny window of 5 minutes when Kobe was not guarding him. Even more impressive is how Kobe was able to slow down the league's leading scorer to a 5-17 shooting performance in the other 35 plus minutes the two played together.

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