Just like in a Clint Eastwood Spaghetti-Western revenge movie, Kobe Bryant narrowed his eyes and came out firing en route to 40 points leading the Lakers to their Game 1 beatdown of the Phoenix Suns 128-107. Bryant didn't care who stood in his way. To him, they were all fodder in his quest to return a favor that's awaited 3 long years. Who knows? Maybe the outcome of this game may have been worst if Phil Jackson hadn't decided to put away his most devastating weapon for the next battle for much of the 4th quarter.
But it wasn't just Kobe who showed their desire to dispatch the Suns in Game 1. Lamar Odom gave his best effort in these playoffs so far with 19 points and 19 rebounds. Even Ron Artest was taking smart shots resulting in 6-of-14 shooting for 14 points. Pau Gasol did chipped in 21 points but only took 13 shots and grabbed 5 boards. Hardly the type of production we've grown accustomed to during the regular season and in the post-season.
Much of Phoenix's hope in this series rested in the hands of Steve Nash before the game. He was the chosen one. The one destined to carry the Suns to the promised land. He too had an opportunity to make his mark early in the series but only managed 13 points and 13 assists. That may seem a like good numbers, but considering they are one series away from the NBA Finals and their opponent in this series you would think that a veteran like Nash would step it up another notch or two to tell his team that they'll be alright. He'll most likely play a better game on Wednesday, but his glaring shortcomings have been exposed by Derek Fisher a few times. Think of it as warning shots from Phil.
Amar'e Stoudamire promised to give the Laker bigs fits on both ends of the floor. He scored 23 points but the rest of his production makes a steep dive after that with only 3 rebounds and 1 block. Stoudamire has to understand that no series in the playoffs is won on promises. Then again, whatever he does on the court won't matter much if the Lakers continue to make everyone else a non-factor.
The Suns started the game on fire jumping to a 7-point lead until the Lakers finally got in rhythm and their shots started falling to take over the lead for good late in the 1st quarter. Both teams were taking turns trying to force their wills onto one another until the Lakers gradually wore down Phoenix in just the first 12 minutes of play.
The Laker defense and size in the paint are just too much for Phoenix to handle. So much for their speed, their team-oriented approach, their new-found ability to defend, and their mastery of the three-pointer. The Lakers have proven early that the Suns are gonna have to be much more creative than what they used against either Portland or San Antonio to get passed them. So expect the Suns to play much more zone defense in Game 2.
As we all know, the Lakers haven't exactly shown that they can play effectively against the zone defense as much as they should. So Game 2 could be an interesting challenge for the Lakers.
For now, the Lakers did their job of drawing first blood and in such a convincing fashion. History says that when a Phil Jackson-led team takes the first game of a playoff series, they are undefeated at 46-0.
Game 1 highlights (feat. commentary by the TNT Post-Game Show. Yep, Barkley doesn't know what he's talking about.)