I don’t think the Lakers showed us anything we didn’t already know.
We know Kobe’s value trails off significantly when he’s not getting his normal calls (most players’ value does really), and we know when he gets frustrated, instead of taking the Jordanian approach of driving harder than ever and forcing the refs to call the game his way or get murdered the next time they fly into O’Hare, he starts launching ludicrous shots that only he and Larry Bird would ever even think to try. When those don’t go, LA loses.
We know Gasol has a tendency to disappear when not being spoon-fed 4th quarter possessions. We know Odom and Bynum each play better when the other isn’t in the way. We know Artest has the basketball decision-making skills of a 6th grader. We know Derek Fisher only makes two great plays per year and that both of them crush my Celtics in crucial moments.
The Heat were able to take advantage of all of those negative trends in LA’s make up for the 6 point win. When all the positive things that those players contribute come out at the same time it’s a very different outcome.
Miami may have taught us a couple of things. I’ve been waiting for LeBron to figure out that he needs to back off and orchestrate some. This is not because Wade and Bosh are better scoring options than him. They aren’t. But while he has a slight edge on them as a scorer, he’s by far the best set-up man on the team. Wade is a good creator who has averaged a lot of assists over the years, but Bron has vastly superior court vision, and his ability to feed the post and make tight passes on the pick and roll is a great trait that has been under-utilized.
In fact the pick and roll generally has gone under-utilized by Miami. Both Wade and LeBron have teamed with Bosh on some pick and pop opportunities, but generally that hasn’t amounted in more than an elbow jumper for Bosh, a steady, open shot, but not a great possession (no opportunity to get to the paint, draw fouls, offensive rebound, etc.). In last night’s game LeBron and Bosh had some great genuine pick and roll plays of the Steve Nash to Amare variety. Wade and James had a few night ones too with Wade opting to forgo the screen and defeat a cheating Bryant while Artest was unable to step away from LeBron to cut off the aggressive drive. It’s an easy way to keep these talented players mutually involved in a play and force the defense to make a decision.