Kobe Bryant had 40 points and Dwight Howard had just 12. Is there a need to even continue?
The play of Bryant and Howard was epitomized Game 1. One player was on point, while the other struggled all night. Bryant, who scored 18 of his 40 points during a 29-15 third quarter, played like a man determined. He added eight rebounds and eight assists.
Howard shot just 1-for-6 from the field. The Lakers crowded Howard. everywhere he moved on the court. The Lakers defense was helped by Orlando’s shooters, who shot a combined 8-for-23 from the field. The Lakers also outrebounded Orlando 55-41. Paced by Lamar Odom (14 rebounds), four Lakers had eight or more rebounds. What does that tell you? It tells you that the Lakers had more energy and more bounce to their step.
Then there was Kobe.
“Our successful part of the game was Kobe’s drive,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.
Jackson, who’s been in a million playoff games, said he wasn’t surprised by Bryant’s performance. “He’s known to play big in big games,” said Jackson, who is 43-0 in playoff series when his team takes a 1-0 lead.
Normally, you wouldn’t want Bryant to shoot so much. He went 16-for-34 from the field. But unlike other games when he’s taken a lot of shots, Bryant actually let his team get involved early. Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol combined for 12 points in the first quarter. Bryant didn’t assert himself until the second and third quarters. He was patient when he needed to be and he was aggressive when he needed to be.
None of this means the series is over, though. The Magic have a couple of things going for them. First, the 1984-85 Lakers lost Game 1 to the Celtics 148-114 and came back to win the NBA title in six games. Second, the Magic trailed the Philadelphia 76ers 1-0 and trailed the Celtics 3-2, but came back to win each series.
Orlando has the capability to make it a series. But this isn’t the 76ers or the Kevin Garnett-less Celtics. If Orlando’s shooting in Game 2 on Sunday resembles what happened in Game 1, the Lakers will win in five games.
Expect to see a different Orlando team on Sunday.