After watching Russell Westbrook carve up the Laker’s defense and make Derek Fisher look like he is just a tad under 1,000 years old, Kobe decided to guard Westbrook in Game Five.
But that wasn’t the only place that Kobe subbed in for Fisher.
The Lakers have a distinct size advantage over the Thunder—or anyone really—inside the paint. The problem is that the Lakers don’t have a point guard that can penetrate, draw the defense, and then get the ball out to the bigs. I love Derek Fisher, but he never had great court vision, and at this point in his career he doesn’t have the ability to get in the lane and draw the defense.
So Kobe came out guarding Russell Westbrook, but as soon as the Lakers got a few possessions, it became clear that Kobe Bryant was playing the point guard position at both ends of the floor.
On defense he shut down Russell Westbrook and disrupted the Thunder’s entire offense. He was such an intimidating force defensively that at one point Westbrook was going up for an easy layup, but when Kobe feigned a defensive effort (not even leaving his feet), Westbrook quickly got the ball out of his hands and passed up on two easy points.
On offense Kobe dictated the tempo, distracted the defense, and created open looks and opportunities for other players. His 13 points and seven assists may not seem all the impressive, but Kobe completely dominated the game. He created almost every single play; the ball went through Kobe and Kobe manufactured offensive opportunities. It got to the point that when Kobe touched the ball, you knew the Lakers were getting two points.
Overall it was a brilliant performance from a team that seems to be a point guard away from a championship. If Kobe can fill that role, while still putting up big points in games when his teammates are cold, then maybe this team has a shot at a repeat.