Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers dominated the Phoenix Suns in Game 1 showing no signs of weakness. Kobe earned his eleventh 40+ point playoff performance of his career in little more than three quarters of action. The Lakers scored 35 points in the first and fourth quarters each, and led by as many as 28 points.
The Lakers are showing they have too many weapons to stop. Even if Andrew Bynum isn’t 100 % and garnishes just four points and four rebounds. The Lakers have Lamar Odom who poses just as much of a match up challenge with his ability to play every position and dominate inside and out. Odom earned a career playoff high 19 rebounds to go with his 19 points in Game 1.
If you told the Suns they would shoot 49% from the field, Amar’e Stoudemire would have 23 points, Nash would dish out 13 assists and shoot 50%, Jason Richardson would shoot 50% from 2 and 3 point range, and Dragic would come off the bench to be their 4th leading scorer, Barbosa would finally break out of his slump with 5 for 7 shooting (11 points), Lopez returned from injury to play near perfect missing just one shot on the way to 14 points, and they would hold Andrew Bynum to just 4 points, they would assume a favorable outcome. But that wasn’t the case in Game 1. With all that went right for the Suns, it wasn’t nearly enough to match the Los Angeles Lakers dominance.
1st Quarter Recap
Ending speculation, both injured centers Andrew Bynum and Suns Lopez started for their respective teams. Two minutes would pass before LA scored their first bucket. 7:20 mark Ron Artest drilled a 3-pointer, 6:5 Andrew Bynum threw down a two-handed dunk, 5:00 minute mark capped a Lamar Odom 7 point outburst, all welcomed signs for LA.
With 3:15 to play in the first, the Lakers took the lead 24-23 and never relinquished it. The Lakers closed the quarter on an 18-4 run led by Pau Gasol’s 3 for 4 shooting, and Kobe Bryant’s buzzer beater corner make.
1st Half Recap
Lakers used the 2nd quarter to build an eleven point lead. And finished the half up 62-55. LA shot 61% FG, Phoenix 50%, LA 3-point 80%, Phoenix 30%, LA FT 80%, Phoenix FT 73%. Lakers received 30 bench points in the first half compared to just 16 from the Suns. Lamar Odom led LA with 15 points and 8 rebounds. Amar’e Stoudemire led Phoenix with 15 points as well.
3rd Quarter Recap
The concern at half time was that the Lakers should have had a larger lead with their first half performance. Kobe Bryant would lay to rest any concerns with scoring 12 of the Lakers first 18 points of the third quarter. LA led at 5:03 82-70, 3:14 89-72, 2:38 91-72, and finished the quarter up 93-79. Kobe scored 21 points in the 3rd quarter alone. Grant Hill could not contain Bryant. He scored from every area on the court at will.
4th Quarter Recap
Typically Kobe Bryant will sit out and rest the first four minutes of 4th quarters. Phil Jackson elected to keep him in and cement the lead and victory. It worked. Kobe scored 4 points to achieve his 40 point total and left the game for good with 9 minutes remaining. 10:00 mark 101-83, 8:00 113-87, LA would lead by as many as 28 in the 4th quarter.
Game 2 Prediction
Lakers are playing championship level basketball. Bench guards Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmer shot a combined 50% and scored 19 points off the bench. Fisher played solid defense against Steve Nash. Lamar Odom dominated, Kobe Bryant is at the top of his game, Pau Gasol was unstoppable missing just three shots on the way to 21 points, 5 assists, 2 blocks and 4 rebounds. Ron Artest was solid on offense and defense. Imagine if Bynum can emerge with a double-double, and we know Fisher will have more than 5 points per game in this series.
Lakers defeated the Suns in every category except blocks (3 apiece). Expect the Phoenix Suns to make adjustments and play better in Game 2. Amar’e Stoudemire may be able to knock down the 15 footer. But he needs to flex his power game and challenge the Laker bigs, maybe even get them in foul trouble. Nash will also need a break out 20+ point performance to go with his 12+ assists. Coach Gentry should consider starting Dragic or giving him more minutes with Nash on the floor. He is their 3rd best scorer. Suns are the best 3-point shooting team in the NBA and will improve from their 22% downtown percentage from game 1.
I anticipate Phoenix will bring their A-game Wednesday night. It will be a closer battle. Lakers will win by 7 points.