Ah, yes. Though I have to say, not a single Lakers player performed badly in the first game of the NBA finals. Defense, offense, they all played a superior game. However, Kobe brought the pace, the speed, the killer instinct, drive, need, want and skill to seal the deal in an unforgettable (i.e. shameful) way to the Magic.
It was the long awaited first game of the finals, and if you watched you know that early on there was hope and even scoring for both teams. And I must put my opinion in early...I wanted Orlando to win this one.
Before touching on the Magic demise, let's first focus on the team's info and history:
Magic coach Sam Van Gundy is a fifth season NBA coach vet (starting at Miami) and has an overall record of 223-126. He led the Magic to the conference finals for the first time since 1996. And most importantly he wears a suit, but never a tie to his games. I like his rebellious attitude. For this series the Magic beat the 76ers 4-2 first round, Celtics 4-2 in the semi finals, and the Cavaliers in the finals 4-2.
Last year the Lakers lost their last game of the Finals to the Celtics by 39 points which was the worst loss in finals history. So it seems that Kobe is determined to redeem the team name. All told the Lakers have 14 NBA titles, which is the second amount in NBA history. Their season included beating the Jazz 4-1, the Rockets 4-3, and Nuggets 4-2.
On to the game…The first quarter looked decent, with the Magic leading and productively moving the ball around offensively. However it seemed that early on Gasol had a plan to consistently execute quick and effective shots. This gave the Magic a battle first quarter and gave their defense a run.
The question seemed to be, who was going to get in foul trouble first? Orlando had constant pressure and was pushing to make plays, however, from the beginning they were playing an outside game and seemed compelled to NOT REBOUND (which truly killed me to watch)!! There is no excuse for not rebounding in the NBA, especially when you have Howard (who is a monster, with muscles like I have never seen!). Dwight Howard has the ability to get the entire opposing team in foul trouble.
There were of course some concessions to be made for impending mistakes.
Jameer Nelson of the Magic had suffered a shoulder injury which caused him to miss 40 games this season. Playing him was a risk, but he brings things to the table Anthony Johnson doesn't.
Kobe had the mis-match advantage defending Lewis. Rashard Lewis, second round select in 1998 NBA draft for Seattle and in his second season with Orlando (previous 9 with Sonics), led the NBA this season in 3-pointers. Despite this, his shots were off and the Lakers made sure they had every rebound.
Kobe was all business with short answers, no smiles and 18 points in first half. However, as much as I love to hate Kobe, I do respect his talent. The man has got game. I don't think he's ever going to be as universally loved as Jordan, but certainly rivals Jordan's talent. Kobe is like a match on fire and he is explosive. He can work it by himself, but knows when to pass and include his team. As a result he landed 40 points in this first game. (There have been 46, 40 point games in the history of the finals and 26 of them have been by LA players). This was the first 40 point finals game for Kobe.
Unfortunately the Magic defense was no match for the Lakers offense. In addition the Magic just continued to take bad shots (hitting 3 of 11 in the second quarter). The Magic ended the game with 31% shooting against Lakers. Ouch!
To add a bit of slap to the hurt, the Lakers hit a three-pointer in the last second of the game and brought the score a brutal 100-75. When all is said and done, the Magic didn't defend the paint, they didn't move ball and they struggled to shoot it (especially from the inside). However they have until Sunday to reassess and create a better plan.
But, there is a glimmer of hope. Back in 1985, the Celtics beat the Lakers in the first game of the finals by 34 points and they came back to win in 6 games! They of course, had a rocking team, but perhaps the Magic can summon the basketball gods too.
Other fun tidbits of interest:
Kobe wore a new Special Edition shoe for the finals (which certainly sealed the endorsement, as he made 36 points in 33 minutes!)
And the game was attended by many celebrities. I was able to catch a glimpse of Jack Nicholson, Lisa Leslie, Andy Garcia, Denzel Washington, and David Arquette. Talk about playing in front of an intimidating bunch!
I am hoping for a better match up game two. When you are outclassed, outplayed, outmatched, dominated, worked, shamed, and knocked out like this, all you can do is consult the tapes and get out of LA as soon as possible.
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