2010 NBA Playoffs: Kobe Bryant Crisis Costs Lakers Game Three in OKC

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2010 NBA Playoffs: Kobe Bryant Crisis Costs Lakers Game Three in OKC
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Judging by the number of shots Kobe Bryant fired Thursday night, one has to wonder if he knows if OKC stands for Oklahoma City and not OK Corral.

Bryant took 29 shots, including 11 three-point attempts, in what resulted in a 101-96 Lakers loss to the Thunder. His attempts from downtown were just one short of matching Pau Gasol, who at 12 shots, put up the second-most attempts on the team.

Therein lies a problem that must be addressed with a question.

Why is Bryant taking 29 shots and Gasol, the most talented offensive big man in the game, only 12?

Your guess is as good as mine.

I don't care what excuses Lakers fans have for Game Three. 

The reality is, Bryant single-handedly lost that game by continuously forcing one bad shot after another, when it was obvious his stroke was off.  

The one play that best summed up Bryant's terrible performance, which included just 10 makes and zero trips to the free throw line, came with the Lakers down four points and one minute left to play.

Not once did Kobe look inside to Gasol. 

Not once did Kobe try to drive to the hoop. 

Instead he just dribbled the shot clock down to eight seconds, pulled up from 24-feet out, in Kevin Durant's face, and bricked a shot off the back of the rim.

Oklahoma grabbed the rebound but failed to score, giving Kobe another shot, down four, with 15 seconds left.

This time Kobe went straight to the hole for the layup.

Why didn't he do that on the previous position?  Or earlier ones?

With 7:47 left, and the Lakers down four, Kobe missed a long jumper. 

With 5:58 left, down two, he missed a three-pointer.

Sixteen seconds later, down four, he had a midrange jumper blocked.

Thirty-seven seconds later, down six, he bricked another three-pointer.

Oklahoma took the lead to eight points with just under four minutes to play. 

What kept the Lakers in the game? 

A 12-6 run that didn't involve Kobe taking as single shot.  

Derek Fisher and Lamar Odom hit threes, Ron Artest buried two long jumpers, and Pau Gasol sank two free throws.

So, let's go back to my original question. 

Why did Kobe take it upon himself to do everything, when he was failing instead of deferring to his supporting cast?  Was it ego?  Did he put his own personal desires above the goal of the team?

It sure seems that way.

The thing is, it's proven that the more shots Kobe takes in a game the more likely the chance his team will lose.

In the 33 games this season in which Kobe put up 20 or fewer shot attempts, the Lakers went 28-5 (.848).  In the 43 games in which he attempted 21 or more shots, the Lakers went 26-17 (.605).

The Lakers are 3-5 (.375) when he takes 30 or more shots, and 8-11 (.421) when he attempts six or more threes. When he attempts 10 or more free throws, they are 17-5 (.773); under 10 and they're 36-18 (.667). 

In short, Kobe needs to quit shooting threes and drive more—that's when he's most efficient and effective.

Before you start screaming about his broken finger, realize he did the same exact thing last season. In 2009, the Lakers went 26-14 (.650) when he took 21 or more shots, and 39-3 (.929) when he took 20 or fewer.

What we're seeing from Kobe in this playoff series is one of two things. 

Either he has begun is decline—he did, after all, cross the 1,000 games played mark this season—or he has reverted to his old, selfish ways of not trusting his teammates.

Either way you cut it, this is not a good dilemma for the Lakers to be experiencing right now. 

Give the Thunder all the credit you want, but also recognize that Kobe shooting 28-76 (.368) is the biggest reason why these games have even been close.

Meanwhile, Gasol is shooting 22-40 (.550) and no one wants to get him the ball.

Mark my words, the Lakers will not win a title this season, if this continues. Kobe needs to realize this approach worked last year because he shot the lights out.

But that was last year. 

And this is not that Kobe.

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