Throw them all out, at least as far as I'm concerned, after watching the 2nd half of the Suns domination of LA, 121-90.
Am I overreacting a little? Probably. I feel a bit cheated. One of the best playoff series in recent memory, and it deserved a better ending than this.
I'll admit, I drank the "Kobe Kool-Aid." I said before the series began that I thought he'd put the Lakers on his back and carry them to a 7-game series win:
Third, and most important, Kobe Bryant plays to the Lakers. I think he's the one guy that can single-handedly lead his team to a series victory. He averaged over 40 points a game in the 4 meetings between these two teams. I can see Kobe averaging about 45 a game over the series, and this being the most entertaining series of the first round. Excuse me while I take a drink of the Kobe Kool-Aid.
After 6 games, I remained convinced. Kobe had played a great series, getting teammates involved when necessary, passing well, shooting well, and playing good defense. Only in Game 6 did he "take over" and assert himself scoring wise. He scored 50 on 20/35 shooting, and the Lakers had the game and series wrapped up until Shawn Marion had the ball bounce to him, kicked it out, and Tim Thomas hit a 3.
I understand Kobe was in an extremely unique situation. He had to try to balance when to be assertive and when to be passive. With some, he couldn't win. I understand that. That's no excuse for his play in the 2nd half.
With the team down 60-45, Kobe kept them even remotely close in the first half, scoring 23 points on 8/13 shooting. He had no help inside, which was the Lakers gameplan early. Kwame Brown and Lamar Odom played their worst games of the series. Smush Parker was himself, which is to say he struggled mightily. Kobe needed to take this game over, or at least try.
Instead, he was beyond passive. In the 2nd half, he was 0/3 from the field. He scored 1 point, which came after a 3-in-the-key technical foul on Phoenix. He didn't even look to shoot. He looked like a young Vince Carter after taking a hard foul.
Even beyond the numbers, he didn't look like he cared. He didn't move without the ball. He didn't really put much effort from what I can tell into scoring, and it showed with 2 offensive fouls just from laziness. Defensively, I didn't see any effort. And this was Game 7 of a playoff series.
"If we were going to get back in this type of game, we have to have everybody contributing," Bryant said afterwards. Apparently, he didn't include himself when he said that "everybody" had to contribute. Kobe didn't even try to do his part.
Bill Simmons, while not really an NBA "expert," is usually pretty insightful on the NBA, and had this to say on Friday:
Which reminds me, if Kobe doesn't completely eviscerate Bell in Game 7, everyone on the planet is banned from making any more Kobe-MJ comparisons. We all know that MJ would have dropped 55 on Bell, shut down Nash on the other end and disemboweled D'Antoni for good measure. Kobe, if you're going to steal MJ's fist clench/shake from Game 1 of the 1998 Finals without asking, you need to take this all the way. You cannot lose Game 7. You can't. Even if you're playing 4-on-5 and Jax keeps refusing to play Vujacic.
Let's just say Kobe failed.
I'm not saying any of this would have made a definitive difference the way the Suns played. They earned the win. For 6 1/2 games, Kobe was great.
Too bad he was nowhere to be found for the final 2 quarters of the series.