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Kobe Bryant’s Defense on Rip Hamilton (Game 1, 2004 Finals)

The version of Kobe Bryant who had overwhelming athleticism and willingness to not only expend his seemingly never ending energy for acrobatic drives and finishes, but also for lock-down defense. After a tough year of flying to and back from Colorado I truly believe that he didn’t have enough left in the tank to be effective on offense against the defense of the Detroit Pistons. However, he somehow was capable to clock 47 minutes in this game and chase around Rip Hamilton (5/16 FG) all night long, forcing 6 turnovers from him and also making some skillful blocks and deflections himself.

It might seem weird that I make a video of a Lakers player playing good D, instead of a Detroit player. But, firstly, Kobe was indeed great on defense in this game. Secondly, it was Gary Payton who got torched by Chauncey Billups, while the Lakers bigs weren’t quick enough on their feet on a few occasions. And, thirdly, at least in this game (I think I might continue re-visiting this series) the Lakers were the ones who couldn’t score on offense. Detroit was very good, I can’t argue that. However, LA’s offensive issues were moreso a product of the players still not being accustomed to the offense with Gary Payton looking useless out there and every pass or decision being a half-second late. They could have ridden Shaq a bit more for the win (the ball, of course, didn’t get to him nearly enough times) but there’s a reason why a team with even so much talent didn’t win it all. There was no chemistry whatsoever. June 6, 2004.

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