Lakers Have All The Magic in Game 1

Kobe Bryant has a remarkable list of accomplishments that have spanned his 13 year career that includes three championships, one MVP and a game in which he topped the 80 point mark.  After leading the Lakers to a 100-75 win in Game One of the Finals he added another achievement to the list. 

Bryant joined rare company with the following stat line: 40 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists.  Only three other players have recorded numbers like that on the NBA’s highest stage:  Jerry West, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal. 

Tonight’s game was won in the second and third quarters with the Lakers taking complete control of the game outscoring Orlando 60-34.  Bryant poured in 30 points during that time span.  The game was still close with about eight minutes to go in the third quarter as the Magic trailed 59-50.  That was as close Orlando would get as the Lakers closed out the third quarter on a 23-8 run with Bryant scoring 12 points in that span.

When you look at the stat sheet, it’s easy to see how Orlando got blown out in their first Finals game in 14 years.  The Magic’s starting front court of Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis combined for just 33 points on 6-of-27 shooting.  The play of these three is the reason that Orlando has gotten this far and when they have nights like this, it’s tough for them to beat anybody. 

 Howard had a solid game as far as rebounds go, pulling down 15, but he scored only 12 points on just 1-for-6 shooting with 10 of those points coming from the charity stripe.  That stat line is simply unacceptable if the Magic want to have a chance in this series.

In addition to the play of Howard, Orlando’s three point shooting has been a key to their success this postseason.  Last night they shot just 39.8 percent as a team from behind the arc making only eight of their 23 attempts.  While that is not a horrible number, it certainly does not help when you combine it with the fact that Howard had an off night in the paint. 

The stat that jumps out even more is that Orlando shot just 29.9 percent from the field as a team.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that shooting a higher percentage from the three point line than from the entire field is not a recipe for success.

The Lakers biggest X factor, Lamar Odom continued his strong play posting another double-double finishing with 11 points and 14 rebounds in 32 minutes off the bench.  His play is arguably the biggest factor to success for the Lakers.  When Odom is at the top of his game, he keeps the opponents from having any kind of break when he enters the contest to replace Andrew Bynum in the line up.  No bench player on either team has the impact that Odom does. 

In Game One, Odom’s biggest impact was on the play of Orlando’s power forward Rashard Lewis.  Lewis was held to just eight points after shooting just 2-for-10 from the field.  Between Gasol and Odom, Lewis had a tough time on the offensive end while defensively he never received a break having to guard two players that are very capable offensively. 

While the Lakers played great in Game One, I believe this series is still far from over.  I chalk up a lot of what happened in game one to Orlando being caught up in the bright lights of making it to the Finals.  They looked like a team that had not been there whereas the Lakers showed the poise of a veteran team.  Orlando had repeated open looks and simply did not execute.   

I also look for Jameer Nelson to get better as the series progresses.  His quickness and shooting ability was tough for the Lakers to contend with during the regular season.  Nelson displayed some of that quickness driving the basketball and getting three assists during his first three minutes of play.  If he can get a consistent shot going he will provide big challenges defensively for the Lakers guards.

Does Orlando still have the Magic that has gotten them to this point or will the Lakers once again make it disappear on their way to another victory?  We’ll find out Sunday night.

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