Lakers 100, Magic 75: An outcome that would make Doug Henning cry
Tonight, the Los Angeles Lakers used the Orlando Magic as their prop. We used "Matt."
The breakdown is below the jump.
- Kobe Bryant: Oddly enough, this forty point juggernaut- setting a new Finals best for Kobe- appeared anything but a given from the outset. The Mamba's first quarter was spent mostly on ice, 3-9 shooting producing just eight labored points. But once the follow up frame concluded with the same amount of shots and twice the makes, I got the very distinct feeling that something wicked this ways comes. That vibe proved entirely on point.
Once Bryant found his flow, he was quite literally unstoppable. Posting up victims (often Courtney Lee) before spinning to the rack. Rising to can 15-20 foot jumpers as a hapless perimeter defender (often Mickael Pietrus) was reduced to "deflated spectator" status. Knifing through the lane and a sea of Orlando bodies (Basically, if you play for the Magic, you're co-owner of this title) to either draw the foul, lay the ball in, or both. Plus, hella post-bucket snarling.
But lest anyone mistake this prowess as being dead set on merely padding points, Bryant's excellence was better rounded than Eddy Curry's physique. He masterfully moved the rock, carving up Orlando's D like a Thanksgiving bird for eight assists. His eight rebounds matched the rebound tally for Orlando's entire guard crew. Toss in a pair of blocks and steals to offset just one turnover- impressive in and of itself, considering how often the ball resided in Kobe's palm- and this night emphatically set a tone for a campaign that hopefully marks his first Finals MVP award.
Ever wonder what an all-time great looks like while refusing to allow even the slightest chance of a dropped series opener? Well, kinda like Kobe this evening.
- Supporting cast contributions: Make no mistake, naming this particular show's star wouldn't require a panel of talking heads debating. The argument begins and ends with Kobe. But unlike past occurrences, grabbing that spotlight didn't leave Kobe gobbling Doans to nurse a sore back. Help was offered by the bushel. Some guys notched more complete efforts than others, but with virtually no exceptions, everybody logging notable minutes found notable ways to contribute.
The most complete efforts were provided by a pair of reserves. The talk surrounding Lamar Odom of late has centered mostly around a proclivity for sugar rushes, a topic he's grown visibly weary of discussing. And what better way to change the subject than notching eleven points, a team-high fourteen boards and a redunkulous +21 Lenovo rating from off the pine. More performances like that, and people won't give a crap if Odom announces that he kicks off every day by mainlining Pixie Stix. And I must confess, even as someone often maintaining that Luke Walton's defense takes a blog beating largely the effect of a mob mentality gone haywire, I had my doubts as to whether he could check Hedo Turkoglu, given the Turkish sharpshooter's size, speed and, frankly, skill advantages. Well, not only did the ex-King's production drop dramatically with Walton shadowing him, Luke's contributions on the other end were equally strong. Nine points on 4-5 shooting, plus a pair of assists and rebounds. Perhaps a sign that a strong Game 6 against Denver marks an upward trend in the works.
From there, less non-stop success, but plenty to smile about. Nine first half points from Derek Fisher. Jordan Farmar skying to save a bad pass from Odom, then recognizing LO on a cut and feeding him for the "and one" basket. Trevor Ariza's opening half was a total struggle, bageled in the scoring column and often victimized by Hedo Turkoglu. Rather than losing focus, Ariza maintained his energy, returned a third quarter scoreless favor to Turkoglu and fired up the crowd with a block from behind on Rashard Lewis. Pau Gasol was nearly as unimpressive during the opening 24 (6 points on 3-7 shooting, just three boards, two turnovers and some visible disjointedness), but like Ariza, El Spaniard left Staples on a high note, his success especially marked while running pick and rolls with Bryant.
- Orlando's numbers (and to clarify, these only qualify as "good" if you're rooting Lakers): If that praise heaped upon various Lakers doesn't make perfectly clear how Game 1 was secured, take a look at the figures littering the Magic's half of the box score. 30% from the field. 35% from behind the arc (not horrendous, but when you launch 23 of them, more success is needed). A third quarter limiting the Magic to 21% shooting and just fifteen points. A paltry ten dimes against eight turnovers. 42 rebounds to L.A.'s 55.
And as for the number "3" (as in "Big"), Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis combined for just 33 points on a pitiful 6-27 clip. In particular, Howard was a wash out, putting up just six shots and saddled with whistles.
Basically, total deconstruction, no matter which angle chosen to view it.
The "Not BAD, but in need of tweaking"
- Andrew Bynum: Before anybody accuses me of going negative on Socks, let me say right off the bat that Drew's overall effect was a net positive. Nine points and nine rebounds (three on the offensive glass), plus one shot blocked and countless others altered. His activity was also non-stop in what was arguably the best he's looked this entire postseason. Certainly, a building block for Game 2. But the only way Bynum can take the next step is to remain on the floor, and that remains an issue.
He sucked down halftime Gatorade with three fouls by his name, creating a precarious second half scenario. And wouldn't you know it, barely two minutes passed after the break before the fourth whistle, which pinned Drew to the bench for the frame's remainder. How bad did it get for Drew? Later, a fifth foul was briefly added to AB17's jumbotron total before the infraction drawn by Howard under the bucket was switched to Fisher. An unfortunate pulse racer for Drew, but the way his night was going, can you really blame the scoreboard operator for "making an ass out of you and me?"
In the case of a couple fouls, I think judgment was the issue. While I loved seeing Bynum clearly out to ensure Howard never found life easy, sometimes you gotta know when to say when. A couple of Superman's buckets needed to be conceded with the goal of fighting another day. Hopefully, Drew can learn to distinguish these situations. But bear in mind, this observation comes against the backdrop of how well Bynum performed.
Luke Walton, on forcing Orlando into difficult shots
Luke Walton, on maintaining Game 1's energy
Andrew Bynum, on his Game 1 performance