Let Kobe shoot the ball.
Watching the NBA is frustrating. And, that is because I do not believe NBA coaches watch film or follow stat sheets.
You hear about the intricate stat sheets that baseball managers carry around to each game, letting their pitchers and players know where every hitter hits the ball, likes his pitches, what gum he chews, etc.
In the NBA, I watch games, and it just becomes obvious that the coaches have no idea what they are doing.
Once again, let Kobe Bryant shoot the ball.
Don't live by the "code" where they tell you to let the men around him beat you. No need to double team him, or triple team him, because when you do that, you are leaving a man wide open, and more often than not that man is open as he's cutting to the hoop, or as he's standing 5-10 feet from the hoop when he catches the ball, which makes it inherently easier to score a basket, or get fouled.
Watching the Magic play the Cavs, I have to believe Stan Van Gundy did his homework, and realized that if he plays LeBron man-to-man, and just keeps Howard down low as a help defender, it will slow down the entire Cavs offense, and not just LeBron James. So, hopefully, he follows his same recipe there, and plays Kobe the same.
Let me give you some stats:
During the regular season, the LA Lakers were 56-7 in games where Kobe Bryant took 24 shots or less.
And, three of those losses came in the final seconds, with two being buzzer beaters.
In the Playoffs, they are 9-3 when he takes 24 shots or less.
Now, for the flip side, during the regular season, the Lakers were 9-10 when Kobe took 25 shots or more.
In the Playoffs, they are 3-3 when he shoots 25 shots or more.
So, let Kobe take shots. He thinks he is unstoppable (and, for the most part is...with the help of the refs), so play him one-on-one and let him handle the scoring for his team, instead of allowing him to get everyone else involved.
What happens when Kobe takes over the offense for the Lakers is that the rest of the team becomes stagnant. If you watch Lakers games, you can see the difference in the offense when Kobe is chucking up shots and when Kobe is dishing the ball to teammates.
If Kobe puts his head down and starts to dribble against Pietrus (who should start and guard Kobe), you can see the body language in the rest of the team settle in for the 'show.'
Now, I do understand that stats are not the end-all-be-all of how a game plays out, but this statistic is not lying. The Lakers offense is incredibly different when Kobe is taking the majority of the shots, and when he is passing the ball and allowing his teammates to help win the game.
In basketball, offense is (or should be) all about ball movement and player movement without the ball.
When Kobe puts the ball in motion, passing around the top of the key, or playing an inside-out game with Gasol, there will be cutters going through the lane, rather than three guys standing at the three-point line and the other standing outside the lane, on the baseline watching him either hoist a jumper, or drive to the lane to get fouled.
The old Kobe was able to dominate more games, more often, with driving into the lane, making his layups, and getting fouled, as well. But, now, he has become more of a jump shooter, which means that it becomes more difficult for him to find open men when he's just standing still, dribbling, and his teammates are standing still watching him dribble, which means they aren't open, anyways.
Even if his shots are falling, and he puts in 35-45 points, how many times have NBA teams lost a game 45-41 or so? You can allow him to score on you, but unless he goes 30-35 from the field, most likely, he's not going to beat you on his own.
He is a 46 percent shooter, and 35 percent from three-point land, which is good, but not somebody that is scaring me into allowing him to take shots whenever he wants. If I were defending him, I would play off of him, and let him think he has an open shot whenever he wants to take it.
The games when the Lakers are at their best is when Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom have the lane dominated, and Trevor Ariza and Derek Fisher are hitting their open shots from Kobe or Pau sucking the defense away from them, leaving them open. And, then, they have Kobe to ice the game down when they already have the lead.
If they allow Kobe to find open guys, or to play inside-out basketball with Gasol, Bynum, or Odom, instead of trying to win games himself, they will be in trouble.
Obviously, this isn't the only factor in winning the title, but it is a great starting point. Play man-to-man defense, because they are big enough down low to handle the Lakers big men.
Keep within your offense and don't try and step out of your rhythm to play the Lakers style. And, definitely, keep Dwight Howard out of foul trouble. With him out of the game, it becomes a whole different series.
My prediction is the Lakers in 7, but only because I'm never right about these things.
The Magic were 2-0 against the Lakers this season, and they won those games using my theory. In the first game, they won 106-103, with Kobe shooting 14-31 from the field, dropping 41 on them.
The second game, they won 109-103, with Kobe going 10-26 from the field, and putting a triple double on them. Like I said, let Kobe get his, and keeping thinking he can get his, because as soon as the rest of the Lakers are out of the game, and out of the flow of the offense, that is when the Magic can take over the game.