The Microscope: Kobe Bryant Returns to the Block (and More)

The Microscope is your recurring look at the NBA's small-scale developments—the rotational curiosities, skill showcases, coaching decisions, notable performances and changes in approach that make the league go 'round.

Kobe Bryant goes home

Game 1 of the Los Angeles Lakers' first-round series against the Denver Nuggets was dominated by big men; both Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol held a considerable advantage over the Nuggets' undersized defenders, and L.A. utilized those advantages to great effect on both ends of the court while coasting to an easy victory.

Denver double-teamed Bynum more precisely in Game 2 in order to force him out of the post, but effectively only transferred L.A.'s post efforts elsewhere. In light of the heavy pressure facing Bynum, Kobe Bryant returned to the low block—one of his most effective zones on the floor, and the space in which Bryant truly does channel his inner Jordan. The Nuggets have a number of skilled perimeter defenders to throw at Bryant, but in the post, many of them lack the strength to reasonably contest his patient descent. Bryant slowly works his way deeper and deeper into position, begging for a double team. If it doesn't come, he cues a fading turnaround jumper—a delicately balanced shot made steady by years of repetition. And if the Nuggets decide to commit another defender? Around and around the passes go, often concluding with either Bynum or Gasol open at the rim.

Bryant can still force things from the post at times, but for him—and the vices of his game—it's a sanctuary of sorts. It allows Kobe to satisfy his alpha instincts in a much more efficient way; rather than isolate off the dribble at the top of the key, Bryant works from a place of immediate advantage and victimizes his opponents without putting the offense at risk.


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