May 4 - STAPLES CENTER - LOS ANGELES. Kobe Bryant shot too bad in the first half, the Lakers shot too bad all game long and the Rockets won 100-92 to take a 1-0 lead in the Western Conferences Semis.
In a game that was much more physical than any from the Utah series, the Lakers looked rusted after one week of rest. Andrew Bynum, back in the starting lineup, committed 2 fouls in the first 3 minutes and ended with 10 points and 3 rebounds in 15 minutes of play. Kobe had 32 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists but missed 7 of 11 shots in the first half. He got more assertive in the third quarter but it wasn't enough. The Lakers shot a 44.3 % from the field, a pathetic 2-for-18 (11.1%) from behind the three point line and made only 12 of 19 free throws.
Yao Ming had 28 points and 10 rebounds, Ron Artest added 21 points and second-year point guard Aaron Brooks was too quick for L.A. to handle and had 19 for the Rockets, who went to halftime with a 3-point margin, made it 59-50 six minutes into the third and kept their composure when Kobe started making jumper after jumper. He scored 11 of the Lakers next 14 points and Jordan Farmar's 3-pointer with 2 seconds remaining made it 67-70 for L.A. going into fourth.
Four minutes into the final period two free throws by Shannon Brown gave L.A. a 77-76 lead but Kobe started misfiring again and Houston scored the next 9 points to took a lead they would never lose again. Then Houston lived their scary moment when Kobe and Yao collided and the Rockets center fell to the court, grabbing his right knee in pain. He limped off the court and into the tunnel but returned a couple of minutes later. Then L.A. tried to stop the clock by making fouls but it didn't work. The Rockets scored their last 11 points with free throws (6 by Yao) going 11-for-12.
In the closing seconds of the first quarter Sasha Vujacic swatted a loose ball over Shane Battier, hitting him in the face with his movement. Blood started to stream down Battier's face (and down to the floor) and he needed four stitches to close a gash over his left eye.
Bryant, who finished second to LeBron James in NBA MVP voting, played dispite missing practice on Sunday with a sore throat. He scored 22 of the Lakers’ final 42 points.