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Kobe Bryant and the 20-Shot Effect: Is It Really His Fault When the Lakers Lose?

Kelly Scaletta@@KellyScalettaFeatured ColumnistDecember 30, 2010

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 29:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots the ball over Emeka Okafor #50 of the New Orleans Hornets at the New Orleans Arena on December 29, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.   The Lakers defeated the Hornets 103-88.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

There has been notice paid to the fact that the Lakers have a losing record this season when Kobe Bryant takes more than 20 shots. It's an easy thing to simply say that the reason the Lakers lose then is that Kobe is taking too many shots, but is it accurate?

I consider that there are three possible explanations to account for this. First, it is the effectual cause, i.e. when Kobe Bryant is taking too many shots, he's shooting them out of games. Second, it is incidental, meaning it is the opposite correlation. The Lakers are losing so Kobe is trying to shoot them back into games. The third possibility is that it's purely coincidental. The two events happen together, but there's no correlation. 

In order to determine which it is I viewed the game logs and shot charts of each of the 15 games in which he has shot over 20 shots.

If 15 or more shots were taken by Kobe before the fourth quarter and the Lakes were losing, I marked it with an "L" under "Factor," meaning that Kobe's shooting was a major factor in the loss. I chose 15 because that means he was on pace to shoot 20 through three quarters, and it is therefore not a factor of him trying to shoot them into the game.

I also marked it with an "L" if the Lakers were winning after three, and Kobe took eight or more fourth-quarter shots when the team lost.

For both of these criteria I considered his points per field goal attempt. The league average is 1.23, below Kobe's average of 1.28. If he was over 1.2, I determined that regardless of number of shots he took, the shooting did not have a negative impact on the game and marked it with an "I" for incidental. 

I also marked it with an "I" if the Lakers were trailing by more than five after three quarters and Kobe took more than one-third of his shots in the fourth quarter, regardless of the P/FGA as the shots were taken to get the Lakers back into the game. 

If the Lakers won, and his P/FGA was over 1.2 I marked it with a "W," and if not I marked it with a "C" for coincidental. If none of the above factors are true, I also marked a "C."

So there are four possible factors in case that all got confusing: W, L, I and C.  The findings are below.

DateOp

Shots at end of 3Q 

3Q MarginFinal ShotsFinal MarginFTMP/FGAPointsFactor
Oct 26HOU17-520+2111.3527W
Nov 3SAC15+1022+129.1.3630W
Nov 9MIN16+828+571.1833C
Nov 11DEN23-232-1691.0634L
Nov 14PHO13-820-521.2525I
Nov 16MIL19+723+991.3531W
Nov 17DET212120+1381.6533W
Nov 19MIN

24

+1328+1761.1733C
Nov 26UTH17-321-681.4831I
Nov 28IND22*-833*-3101.2441I
Nov 30MEM22-525-2101.1629L
Dec 1HOU17-224-1071.1327L
Dec 7WAS18+323+771.3932W
Dec 10CHI18023-441.0023L
Dec 28SAS21-927-1520.7821L

*In the 11/28 game against Indiana Kobe was 4-for-11 from the field during the fourth quarter, and took no free throws. While according to the standards laid out it's incidental I thought I should note this as some might argue that Kobe was a factor in a loss. I wouldn't agree with that because when Kobe came back into the game in the fourth, the Lakers were down by seven. He closed the gap.

Over the course of the season Kobe has taken 20 or more shots 15 times. The Lakers are 7-8 in those games. In the games which they won, Kobe's shooting has been a positive factor five times. In the games which they lost his shooting has been a negative factor five times. 

What is more compelling than merely looking at the number of shots is looking at the effectiveness of his shooting. When he takes 20 or more shots and he averages better than 1.30 points per attempt the Lakers are 5-1. When he is below 1.25 points per attempt the Lakers are 1-8. The problem then isn't merely when he takes a lot of shots, it's when he misses a lot of shots.

In fact the Lakers are 13-3 when Kobe shoots more than .450 from the field and are 9-7 when he's shot under that. It's interesting when you look at the splits because Kobe actually scores more points in losses than in wins. He also has one more assist. However this comes on nearly six more shots in five more minutes of play. 

It seems to me that Kobe's issues are first, knowing when his shot isn't there, and second, involving his teammates when it's not. If he could turn even half of those missed shots into assists he would have turned half of their losses into wins. 

On the whole though, it seems that Kobe is taking more grief for this than he deserves. It's what happens when you have a shooter. Sometimes there are off nights and the general notion is that you shoot through those to find your shot. Kobe is aging though, and finding it may become harder than it used to be. He just needs to learn to adjust his game accordingly to keep helping the Lakers to win. 

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