June 4 - STAPLES CENTER - LOS ANGELES. Kobe Bryant doesn't want to be on the losing side again this year and in an instant-classic performance he dominated the game, had 40 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists and led the Lakers to a big win 100-75 in game 1 of the 2009 NBA Finals.
And Kobe wasn't alone, Pau Gasol had 16 points and 8 rebounds and was a key part of the collective effort against Dwight Howard, Lamar Odom added 11 points and 14 rebounds and Derek Fisher and Luke Walton both had solid games and contributed 9 points each.
Orlando went ahead 33-28 early in the second quarter but Kobe took control of the game after that scoring 12 of his 18 first-half points and giving 4 assists in the remaining minutes of the period. The Lakers ended the half with a 53-43 lead, and Kobe continued dominating in a third quarter where he was unstoppable showing his defenders all his repertoire and scoring another 18 points to help his team outscore the Magic 29-15.
Despite having a big lead the Lakers never decreased their intensity at the end, like trying to win it emphatically to send a message to the Magic players who seemed already touched by their awful shooting night. Maybe the pressure of being in the Finals affected a team that has great outside shooters and a high percentage player on the post but went 23-for-77 (.299) from the field.
The game started with Bynum doing a good job on Dwight Howard at both ends and his teammates protecting the perimeter. As usual the Laker young center saw his time limited by his fouls (9 points and 9 rebounds in 22 minutes) but as soon as Phil Jackson noticed Orlando's problems on the perimeter he sent his players to clog the paint and it paid its dividends. While his teammates weren't able to make a jumper, Howard almost didn't received the ball and disappeared from the game on the second half. Kobe by himself outscored the Magic's big three 40-33. Turkoglu scored 13 points on 3-for-11 shooting, Rashard Lewis had 8 on 2-for-10 and Howard scored 12 points and 15 rebounds but he attempted just 6 field goals and scored 10 of his points on free throws.
Jameer Nelson saw basketball action for the first time since Feb. 2. The point guard who was a starter previous to his shoulder surgery gave the Magic some spark with 4 assists in his first 4 minutes of play in the second quarter.
Bryant's 40 were his career high in the finals, and the 10th time he has scored 40 or more in the playoffs.