Lakers/Suns Game 1 Recap
Kobe takes a licking, but keeps on ticking.
For those who actually thought that one of those nagging injuries was going to slow down Kobe Bryant during the NBA Playoffs, think again.
It’s that time of year. Win or go home.
And it doesn’t appear as if the Black Mamba is going anywhere anytime soon. Apparently, he’s willing to do whatever it takes to win another title.
Reports recently surfaced that Bryant had quite a bit of fluid drained from his swollen right knee. But one might not have ever known he had an ailment that forced him to miss practice time, not after he scored 21 of his 40 points in the third quarter of Monday’s 128-107 victory over the Suns in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals at Staples Center.
At the press conference before the opening tip, Bryant’s condition was a hot topic, to be sure. Turns out, his on-court play answered all of the off-court questions.
“Kobe carried a lot of the offense tonight, no doubt,” Jackson said to reporters. “I will say he was going to shoulder the game. He was going to take it on. He’s been very optimistic through the whole week. He felt like he had the right amount of rest and shooting he had to have. He was attentive and involved.”
Hey Zen Master, you can say that again.
Bryant was particularly attentive and involved in the first quarter. He ended up scoring 11 points in the early going, nine coming over the course of the final 2:51 of play to give the Lakers a 35-26 advantage at the end of one.
So much for his supposed injury right?
Kobe deffered to Lamar Odom in the second quarter, which turned out to be a good idea considering how well the first guy off the Lakers bench was playing underneath. Odom scored 15 points and added eight rebounds in the first half.
Not surprisingly, the Lakers had a seven-point lead at the break.
Once intermission was over with, it was all Kobe Bryant. Again.
He came out on fire, scoring 12 points in the first six minutes of the third quarter. Very little changed thereafter. A three-point play, the conventional way, had the crowd going crazy and extended the lead to 89-72 with 3:15 left clock.
On the next trip down the floor, Kobe managed to get loose behind the Suns defense for a breakaway two-handed dunk that forced Jack Nicholson to abandon his courtside seat. The longtime Lakers lover jumped to his feet and led the cheers.
Bryant played sparingly in the fourth quarter. He did, after all, deserve a break after nearly outscoring the Suns, 24-21, by himself in the third quarter.
“Just being aggressive, playing my game,” said Kobe during the post-game press conference with regards to the roll he was on in the opening minutes of the second half. “Got shots, took them. Got lanes to the basket, took them.”
Conditioning played a role in him being able to bounce back from the balky knee: “I practice so much during the season,” he said. “In the off-season, I work a lot. To take a week off, I’m not going to lose all the work I put in prior to that.”
Bryant had help along the way on Monday night.
Plenty of help, in fact.
The Lakers received contributions across the board, especially from Odom, who played well from start to finish and had 19 points and 19 rebounds.
Pau Gasol added 21 points, 5 assists, 4 assists and 2 blocks.
Ron Artest had 14 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds.
They also almost got a dunk for all time when Shannon Brown tried to hurdle Jason Richardson.
As for Phoenix, the Suns had six players in double figures, led by Amar’e Stoudemire, who finished with 23 points. Going 5-22 as a team from beyond the three-point arc certainly didn’t help matters for a group that was hoping to steal Game 1.
Ultimately, however, Kobe Bryant stole the show. There was no question about how impressive the effort was either. His 40 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds in 35 minutes of action is a good indication of just that.
Imagine his numbers had he been completely healthy.
“He’s the best scorer in the league,” Odom said to reporters in the locker room. “Drives, fadeaways with his back to the basket, inside-outside, with his left hand. Time off is exactly what he needed.”
Draining his knee before the game…
Draining jumpers during the game…
The injury bug attempted to bite Bryant.
This time, however, Kobe bit back.