Kobe Bryant’s “High-Volume Shooting”: Part 4

Like I said last time, in this we’re going to choose some representative games from the “Kobe took 18 to 28 shots” group of games. In these games, the Lakers were 28-19 – a winning percentage of .595, down from .900 in the “under 17 shots” category.

To analyze some ‘representative’ games, first we want to see what patterns are frequent in these 47 games that saw Kobe take between 18 and 28 shots. This is a pretty broad range, but it’s not arbitrary: nearly all the winning percentages connected to a certain number of shots in this range (that is, the Lakers’ winning percentage when Kobe takes that many shots) fall in the .5 to .75 range; the only exceptions are 18 shots (winning percentage .333), 21 shots (.400) and 28 (1.000). This is distinct from the other two ranges of shots, but there’s no distinction within this range.

So, what do we observe within this range? 5 distinct trends, with subtrends (which could pretty much encompass any game, really) – the number in parentheses represents how often that particular type of game happened, in games where Kobe took between 18 and 28 shots:

  • The Lakers trail, then come back (6).
    • The Lakers then pull away (2).
    • The opponent then pulls away (1).
    • The game remains close until the end (3).
  • The Lakers lead, then their opponent comes back (12).
    • The Lakers then pull away (2).
    • The opponent then pulls away (1).
    • The game remains close (9).
  • The game stays close, then the Lakers pull away (no opponent comeback) (13).
    • The Lakers pull away in the 1st quarter and hold that lead (3).
    • The Lakers pull away in the 2nd quarter and hold that lead (1).
    • The Lakers pull away in the 3rd quarter and hold that lead (4).
    • The Lakers pull away in the 4th quarter and hold that lead (5).
  • The game stays close, then the opponent pulls away (no Laker comeback) (8).
    • The opponent pulls away in the 1st quarter and holds that lead (2).
    • The opponent pulls away in the 2nd quarter and holds that lead (2).
    • The opponent pulls away in the 3rd quarter and holds that lead (3).
    • The opponent pulls away in the 4th quarter and holds that lead (1).
  • The game is back-and-forth throughout (8).
    • The game is close throughout (neither team takes a substantial lead) (4).
    • Each team takes a substantial lead at some point, losing it – the game is close at the end (4).

Now, there’s a lot of interesting stuff here. So rather than go in-depth on a small sample of games (like the last portion as the analysis), we’re going to ask two questions about several of the games: (a) where is Kobe during the ‘critical points’ of the games (when the either team pulls away or comes back), and (b) when do most of his shot attempts come? If our hypotheses from earlier in the analysis hold up, we should find that Kobe’s shot attempts increase at these specific, critical times. You may have noticed we’re still not including blowout victories where Kobe plays below-average numbers of minutes, but remember we’re also only looking at games where Kobe attempted between 18 and 28 shots – thus the excluded games wouldn’t be included in this group anyway (given that Kobe nearly never attempts more than 18 shots in a blowout below-average-playtime game).

At first it’s a bit difficult to see what we’re looking for in the below analysis, so in general, we’re choosing the Lakers’ ‘critical points’ in the game (before ever looking at who was involved in the run) and then seeing if Kobe’s shot attempts increased over that time period compared to the rest of the game. Because Kobe’s shot behavior doesn’t impact what we’re choosing as runs, observing increased shot activity from him should indicate that his increase in shot attempts are correlated to Lakers’ runs. There’s more than this, but this is the core of what we’re looking for.

Game stays close, then the Lakers pull away

Let’s start with the most common type of game from the Lakers’ season. 13 times during the 07-08 season, the Lakers found themselves in a fairly close game, only to eventually pull away and win. 4 times this happened in the first half (three times in the first quarter, once in the second), 9 times it happened in the second half (four times in the third quarter, five in the fourth). These games:

  • December 16th: Lakers 113, Clippers 92; Lakers pull away in the first quarter
    • Critical Points: 1st Quarter, Lakers 23-5 run
    • Kobe During Critical Points: 5/8 for 11 points, 5 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 turnover
    • Kobe’s Other Shots: 0/1 in 1st, 2/3 in 2nd, 1/4 in 3rd, 3/4 in 4th
    • Summary: As expected, Kobe’s shots are up during the run, low otherwise
  • December 23rd: Lakers 95, Knicks 90; Lakers pull away throughout, then are threatened late
    • Critical Points: 1st Quarter, Lakers 16-11 run; 2nd Quarter, Lakers 25-12 run; 3rd Quarter, Lakers 15-8 run; 4th Quarter, Lakers 6-4 run (follows a 13-2 Knicks run to pull within 5)
    • Kobe During Critical Points: 3/5 for 10 points; 2/6 for 5 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal; 2/3 for 6 points; 2/4 for 4 points
    • Kobe’s Other Shots: 1/4 in 1st, 0/0 in 2nd, 0/2 in 3rd, 3/3 in 4th
    • Summary: Interestingly, a run ensues when Kobe’s shooting but isn’t hitting his shots (2nd quarter). The final run is more notable than 4 points makes it seem: it took place over only 2 minutes and sealed the victory for the Lakers.
  • November 10: Lakers 107, Wolves 93; Lakers pull away in the third quarter
    • Critical Points: 3rd Quarter, Lakers 12-3 run; 4th Quarter, 11-3 run (following 11-6 Wolves run to pull within 6)
    • Kobe During Critical Points: 1/1 for 2 points, 3 assists; 1/1 for 7 points
    • Kobe’s Other Shots: 5/8 in 1st, 0/2 in 2nd, 1/2 in 3rd, 1/4 in 4th
    • Summary: An interesting game; instead of Kobe’s shot attempts being high during runs, they’re highest during the first quarter, which remains fairly close. It’s notable, though, that the rest of the Lakers were 5/10 in the 1st with 5 turnovers – Kobe performance here may have kept them in the game. This is also an interesting example of Kobe possibly sparking a run without his FGAs increasing: despite taking only 1 shot in both runs, he was responsible for 8 of the first run’s 12 points and 7 of the second run’s 11 points.
  • December 14: Lakers 102, Spurs 97; Lakers pull away in the fourth quarter
    • Critical Points: 4th Quarter, Lakers 20-8 run
    • Kobe During Critical Points: 3/4 for 7 points, 1 assist
    • Kobe’s Other Shots: 4/8 in 1st, 1/3 in 2nd, 2/8 in 3rd, 0/0 in 4th
    • Summary: Another game outside the mold of the first two, Kobe’s 3rd quarter performance begs analysis. In the 3rd quarter, the Spurs outscored the Lakers by 10 to go from an 8-point deficit to a 2-point lead entering the 4th quarter. In our hypothesis, this represents a time when Kobe would theoretically respond – his increased shot attempts during this time indicate that this hypothesis should apply to this situation as well. Either from the Spurs’ superior defense or lady luck forgetting about Kobe for a night, in this particular instance the shots didn’t fall – but success isn’t what we’re interested in here, only effort. When the Lakers were threatened, it appears that Kobe again tried to carry them out of it; only this time, he didn’t succeed the first time, only the second (accounting for 10 of the 20 points in the final run).

In the next entry we’ll finish analyzing these games and see if the trend observed here holds true. So far, however, it certainly appears that our hypothesis that Kobe’s shot attempts increase at critical points in the game has held true through these first four games.

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