When two smart basketball minds go toe-to-toe with one another, it makes for a compelling matchup, and in the case of Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant and Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, Sunday’s game was a case of just that.
“Every time I play him (Thibodeau), he’s known me since I was 15 years old. he’s just not going to let me beat him by scoring,” Bryant told reporters after the Lakers’ 90-81 win over the Bulls on Sunday. “He doesn’t want that to happen, so I’ve got to find my guys.”
Thibodeau and Bryant have a long history with one another, stemming from the days when Bryant was a sophomore at Lower Merion High School and Thibodeau was an assistant coach with the Philadelphia 76ers. The two worked on Bryant’s game, preparing him for NBA basketball. Bryant considers him a major influence on him.
Bryant finished with 19 points on 7-of-16 shooting and was just 1-0f-4 from the three-point line and couldn’t get comfortable with his shot all game long. Of course, he understood this fact and like he can do so well, adjusted his game to fit the coverage, finishing with seven rebounds and nine assists. Dwight Howard was one of the main beneficiaries of this adjustment and scored 16 points on an efficient 8-of-14 from the field.
Six players and all five starters scored in double figures, so it was a total team effort against one of the best defensive teams in the league. It all started with Bryant out-foxing Thibodeau and understanding what he was trying to do.
“Thibodeau makes a conscious decision that he’s not going to let me beat him offensively for 48 minutes, he’s just not going to change it,” Bryant added. “The games in the past in New Orleans and the last game (vs. the Toronto Raptors) I start making plays and get other guys involved, they try to shift their defense and try to stop me from doing that and that’s when I score then they shift from that and that’s when I pass. Thibodeau just keeps it consistent.”