For veterans Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom, the bitter memory of how last year’s NBA Finals ended in Boston, not with just a loss but with a beat down, was still very much in their minds.
This team knew what they had to do, but could they do it here tonight in Orlando?
The Orlando Magic were fast out of the gate tonight building a nine-point first quarter lead against the Lakers as six Magic players scored.
Phil Jackson, coaching his 300th playoff game, watched as Andrew Bynum went 0-for-6 before hitting his first shot. Then three field goals each from Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol cut the lead down to two points, 28-26, at the buzzer.
The Magic got off to another fast start in the second quarter, 34-28, with Dwight Howard showing some good moves around Bynum to the basket.
Then the Lakers went on a 16-0 run aided by two three-point jumpers, a layup, a two-point jumper, and two steals by Trevor Ariza, to take a 54-40 lead forcing Stan Van Gundy to call two quick timeouts.
The Lakers outscored the Magic in the second quarter 30-18 for a 56-46 lead at the half.
Again, the Magic got off to a fast start in the third quarter, cutting the Lakers lead in half with two scores by Courtney Lee and another by Rashard Lewis. But two back-to-back three-pointers by Lamar Odom pushed the lead back up to eleven.
As the Magic crowd pleaded for "Defense!" the Lakers stretched their lead to 15 points, 76-61 by the end of the quarter.
Could the Magic come back?
In the first three quarters, the Magic had only shot 2-for-16 from beyond the arc. They made two quick ones to start the final quarter which came from J.J. Redick and Rashard Lewis. But, Bryant hit a two-point jumper and a three-pointer to keep the Lakers in firm control.
There was no way that Phil Jackson was going to take Kobe Bryant out until the game was secured. So, if the Magic were going to make a come back, they would have to stop No. 24.
Six three-pointers by the Magic cut the Lakers’ lead down to eleven points and kept Bryant in the game as well as three of the other four Lakers’ starters.
But the Magic could get no closer, and the Los Angeles Lakers are the 2008-2009 NBA Champions with a 98-86 victory.
Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher have their fourth rings while Phil Jackson gets No. 10.
What a difference a year makes!
Kobe Bryant finished with 30 points, six rebounds, five assists, four blocked shots, and his very first NBA MVP trophy.
Lamar Odom had another double double with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Pau Gasol also had a double double with 14 points, 15 rebounds, and 4 blocked shots. Trevor Ariza finished with 15 points, five rebounds, and two steals.
Rashard Lewis and Dwight Howard each had double doubles for the Magic. Lewis had 18 points and 10 rebounds. Howard finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
For the Magic, a valiant effort that fell short. For the Lakers, vindication at last.