Kobe's long-range vs KD's mid-range game

US Presswire, Getty Images

Kevin Durant (left) and the Thunder take on Kobe Bryant and the Lakers tonight.The NBA’s two leading scorers take center stage on ESPN tonight when Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers travel to Oklahoma City to face Kevin Durant’s Thunder.

Bryant leads the league in scoring at 28 points per game, and in his 17th season he is shooting a career-high 49 percent from the field. Durant has continued to improve in his sixth season, also shooting a career-high 51 percent.

One reason for Kobe’s success this season is his shooting from 15 feet or further from the basket. He is shooting a career-high 42 percent and averaging 1.05 points per field-goal attempt from that distance.

Bryant has never shot higher than 40 percent from at least 15 feet in his career and has not averaged more than one point per shot from that distance since his rookie season. He is also shooting 37 percent from the 3-point line, on pace for his highest percentage since the 2002-03 season.

Highest Shooting Percentage from 15+ Feet
Kobe Bryant Career

Bryant’s proficiency from at least 15 feet this season has coincided with fewer shot attempts from that distance.

He has attempted 46 percent of his overall field goals from at least 15 feet, which is on pace to be his lowest percentage since the 2003-04 season. During the previous eight seasons, Bryant attempted 56 percent of his shots from at least 15 feet, including a career-high 63 percent of his shots in 2005-06.

While Kobe is having his best season shooting from at least 15 feet, it is the mid-range jumper where Durant has been most improved.

Durant is shooting 53 percent on shots between five and 14 feet, the highest percentage in his career and highest in the league, minimum 50 shot attempts. Entering this season, Durant was shooting 41 percent on mid-range jumpers and had never shot higher than 47 percent in a season on such shots.

Kobe Bryant vs Kevin Durant FG Pct
This Season

Bryant has been slightly better than Durant this season on shots inside five feet and from at least 15 feet, but the mid-range game is where Durant holds a major advantage. Bryant is shooting 43 percent on shots between five and 14 feet, which is on pace for his second-lowest percentage from that distance since the 2005-06 season.

If Kobe is going to continue his strong shooting from 15-plus feet tonight, he will have to improve on his shooting numbers from last season against the Thunder. In eight games against Oklahoma City (including the playoffs) in 2011-12, Bryant shot 30 percent from at least 15 feet and was 5-for-27 on 3-point attempts.