I mentioned this thought on twitter during the game, but I want to expand on it here.
The Sixers out-executed the Lakers down the stretch of tonight’s win. You are reading that correctly. It’s not that they executed well. Lou Williams hero-ball just worked better than Kobe hero-ball, with the teammates for each playing drastically different roles. For instance, Kobe was placed on Lou because the Lakers had no one who could stop him, while the Sixers have the best perimeter defender in the NBA (Andre Iguodala, of course) on Kobe for nearly the entire game and in those situations.
From 2:50 left in the fourth onward, two Lakers shots came from players not named Kobe: a tip-in attempt by Pau Gasol (missed) and a three with 5 seconds left from center Andrew Bynum (predictably, missed as well). Kobe took every other shot. Seriously. Check the play-by play.
And we knew this coming in – Kobe goes into hero/I’m the man mode in every one of those situations if given the chance. So the Sixers, and Doug Collins and Michael Curry, made some defensive adjustments late. They double Kobe knowing that there would be few consequences on many possessions. They sent everyone at Kobe and the bigs, leaving the Fishers and Barneses and World Peaces open in exchange for making Kobe’s task a living nightmare.
But what struck me was the play with roughly 10 seconds left, after Lou’s free throws made it a five-point game, where the Lakers got the ball at half court. We all knew Kobe was getting the ball yet again. And anticipating this, the coaching staff made a clever move: having Evan Turner cover Pau Gasol. They knew the Lakers were going to try and get Kobe a look from three off a screen from a big. They also knew Kobe would never pass to Gasol in that situation. So the play occurs, and there’s Turner, our second best perimeter defender, sticking to Kobe 25+ feet from the rim when normally it would be a power forward. Predictably, Kobe misses, and the Sixers get a nice win.
While the Sixers offense down the stretch got carried like never before by Lou, and we can never expect that to happen again, our end-of-game defense sure looked good. And you can credit the coaches for that.