L.A. Lakers @ Sacramento Kings, 2001 Western Conference Semi-Finals, Game 4

This game came right in the middle of the Lakers historic 2001 playoff run where they went 16-1 while sweeping through the western conference. Sweeping Portland, Sacramento and San Antonio in 2001 is quite the accomplishment. In Game 4 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals Kobe put up 48 points, 16 rebounds, three assists and two steals on 15-29 shoot from the field and 17- 19 from the free throw line. Kobe also had a TS% of 64% which is well above the league average of 51% for that year.

 

Even though the Lakers were up 3-0 already, coming in on a six-game winning streak, it was still a big moment for young Kobe to step up in an elimination game, because at this time Kobe was still hidden in Shaq’s giant shadow. The Lakers won this game, swept the Spurs and then went on to lose the first game of the NBA Finals shockingly to a ridiculous AI performance, but ended up overpowering the Sixers 4-1 on their way to the most impressive championship run in NBA history,

 

During this game Kobe did not have many highlight reel plays, it was more of an exact kill as he kept the Lakers within striking range the whole game and killing any momentum the Kings had with his constant trips to the free throw line. The way he smacked his gum and strutted around the court the entire game, this was one of those games that showed flashes of how good Kobe would end up being.

 

Example #1:  We have Kobe playing great ** free safety ** defense by getting the steal on Chris Webber’s blind side and taking it to coast to coast to give the Lakers an early 7 point lead.

 

Webber doesn’t hit Christie on the cut, prompting Christie to cut through the middle and out to the weak side. Webber begins to back down Grant ** making two hard dribbles middle, towards his strong hand ** but Grant does a great job cutting off Webber’s strong hand, and forcing him baseline with his weak hand.  Kobe never follows Christie all the way weak side and lurks middle noticing Webber has a massive blind spot.

As Webber spins baseline, Kobe is in perfect position to get the clean steal and start the fast break sideline.

Kobe heads all the way up the right sideline, with Fisher trailing and Fox in position to cut to the basket. Kobe hits a quick hesitation baseline then enters the middle of the paint to make a move.

Kobe takes one dribble off the hesitation and pulls up a foot inside the free throw line and pulls up. Kobe rises straight up with his body square to the basket, no leaning or fading.  Because of the height ** and athletic ** Kobe has, Jason Williams is barely able to contest the shot, which Kobe knocks down.

Example #2: This is Kobe beating the double team and scoring ** And 1 ** on three Kings defenders at the end of the first half.

With the shot clock at 10, Peja leaves Fox to go and double Kobe trying to get the ball out of his hands. Kobe heads away from the double team and turns the corner on Christie ** Christie dropped the ball on this one ** and can get into the middle of the lane.

As Kobe enters the middle we see that he has four sets of eyes on him, with two shooters wide open for a shot ** Fisher and Fox ** plus Horry short corner for an 8-foot jumper ** a shot Horry can easily hit  **. An example of a selfish play, but was a perfect example of who Kobe was as a player, when he is feeling it ** which he was ** he is capable of making these ridiculous shots which can crush morale ** two points aren’t always just two points **.

Kobe has three Kings players hanging all over him ** Webber, Divac & Peja, all 6”9 and taller ** but still manages to make the runner and get the foul. Again, Kobe has Horry on the block wide open, but Kobe was on a mission this game to crush the King’s soul and was on a tear doing so.

 

Example #3: This is Kobe hitting a heavily contested ten footer with some excellent movement

 

The play starts with Kobe hitting Grant on the wing ** Clearly out of his range **  then heading behind Grant to the sharp side corner. While this is happening Shaq barrels his way to the block gaining good position on Divac in the post.

Grant drops the pass down to Shaq in the post and clears out the middle to set on the pick for Fox. Once Grant is out of the middle Kobe walks Christie down and towards the baseline, makes a hard jab baseline then cuts off Shaq’s right shoulder losing Christie. Shaq makes a nice finesse pass to Kobe, hitting him in stride.

Kobe rises middle over Webber, slightly fading back, giving himself more space to get the shot off. We have Grant wide open under the hoop for a layup, but Kobe has just enough space to hit the shot over Webber.

Example #4: Kobe baits Christie into reaching then rises for a jumper, drawing the foul. The Lakers being up 98-94 with 5 minutes left, this shot was a real kick to the gut delivered by Kobe.

As Shaw brings it down, Kobe heads straight for the right side block, and Horry gets out to the wing to get a pass from Shaw, looking to make an entry pass in the post.

Christie does a great job denying Kobe out of position, forcing him off the block and in a wrong spot. Horry sees no benefit to giving Kobe the entry pass, so swings it back to Shaw who goes one more pass to the corner and hits Harper.

With Grant being not much of a threat with his back to the basket, Harper sees Kobe back in position in the post, signaling for him to swing the ball back around so he can get another crack at Christie in the post. Horry receives the pass from Shaw and drops it to Kobe who has good ** but not excellent** position.

Kobe faces up in triple threat position, gives Christie a hard jab baseline ** which keeps Christie honest and on his toes**, which throws him out of place ever so slightly. While recovering Christie makes the mistake of reaching, as soon as he reaches Kobe goes straight up ** A la James Harden **, gets the foul call, nails the shot and crushes thousands of souls all at the same time.

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