Is Mr. Clutch Losing His Touch?

Gaz VCorrespondent IDecember 20, 2008

For the second night in a row, the Los Angeles Lakers—a team frequently labeled the “best team” in the Western Conference—had possession of the ball, time on the clock, and the opportunity to make the tying basket to send a game to overtime against an Eastern Conference rival.

Against the Miami Heat on Friday night, the Lakers trailed by just two points when they called a timeout with six seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. After Phil Jackson drew up the play, no one was surprised to see it reach the hands of Kobe Bryant, the player known as “Mr. Clutch” by his adoring fans.

Bryant caught the ball near center court off a Lamar Odom inbounds pass, temporarily dribbled past his immediate defender using a high pick set by Gasol, then reached the left elbow where he forced a fadeaway jumper over the outstretched arms of Shawn Marion. 

The ball bounced around the rim and popped out just as time expired, leaving one to wonder whether either Odom or Vujacic—who were both wide-open beyond the arc for a kick-out pass that never arrived—could have made the game-winning shot.

Against the Orlando Magic tonight, the Lakers again found themselves with the ball at half court, time on the clock (three seconds), and the opportunity to force overtime with a clutch three-pointer.

Who does Phil Jackson rely on to knock down the money shot?  Yes, you guessed it, “Mr. Clutch” himself. Again, Bryant gets the ball, forces up a tough shot with a defender in his face, and misses the one that mattered most.

Two straight opportunities to send the game to overtime. Two straight opportunities for “Mr. Clutch” to earn his nickname. Two straight opportunities where “Mr. Clutch” performed more like “Mr. Choke.”