After a convincing Eastern Conference Finals win in six games over the top-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers, the Orlando Magic looked to be this year's Cinderella story. But last night, the Los Angeles Lakers knocked the Magic down a few levels with a 100-75 rout in Game One of the 2009 NBA Finals in L.A.
The Lakers proved they are ready to play and make up for last year's NBA Finals defeat to the Boston Celtics by not letting the hype of the Magic get to them. Kobe Bryant led the purple and gold with 40 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, two steals, and two blocks, showing that he is out for redemption and hungry for his fourth NBA ring.
Bryant lit up the Staples Center with aggressive offense and defense to go along with 47 percent shooting from the field and a perfect eight-for-eight from the free-throw line. Pau Gasol added 16 points and eight boards to help the Lakers take the contest.
Orlando simply never got it going. They shot a lackluster 29 percent from the field in the game, mostly because the Lakers played a suffocating defense. Los Angeles outscored the Magic 47-32 in the second half; Kobe alone had 18 in the third.
It seems that, with the sting of last year's Finals defeat still on their minds, the Lakers made sure to come out strong and vindictive. It also helped that last year's MVP filled up the stat sheet.
“I just want it so bad, that’s all,” Bryant said. “I just want it really bad."
With Kobe extremely motivated to get L.A. their 15th franchise title and the rest of the Laker team on a mission, it will be extremely hard for the Magic to pull off the upset.
The return of All-Star point guard Jameer Nelson boosted Orlando's confindence and made them feel they could work off of their success against LeBron James and the Cavs. But Nelson, who was clearly rusty, only posted six points and four assists in 23 minutes of play.
The Magic were led by center Dwight Howard, who had 12 points and 15 boards. Mickael Pietrus had a team-high 14 for Orlando, but the Magic, who normally are fueled by a team effort and a well-rounded offense, couldn't find scoring from anyone else on their roster.
Starters Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis, and Rafer Alston combined for a mere 27 points. Such a dismal performance was the product of a tough Laker defense and a poor team shooting night for the Magic. Orlando was eight-of-23 from the three-point line.
“We’ve never had a shooting night this bad,” Howard said. “We’ve just got to come out and play a lot harder than we did tonight.”
Revenge might be hard to come by; consider that the Lakers are 43-0 under coach Phil Jackson in series when his team wins Game One.
If the Magic look to break their opponent's streak and win their franchise's first NBA title, they will need to rebound in Game Two, which is set for Sunday night in L.A.