Bryant shot a poor three-of-nine, missing his last four shots as the Orlando Magic took a 24-22 lead at the end of the first quarter. When he returned at 8:32 of the second quarter, the Lakers were down 33-28. That would be the last time the Magic led.
Bryant preceded to hit his first three shots, and the Lakers found themselves up 38-33. Bryant hit three more shots in the quarter and finished with 18 points overall on 9-of-18 shooting to go with six assists and five rebounds. That put the Lakers up 53-43 at the half.
Luke Walton and Derek Fisher were the beneficiaries of Bryant’s assists. Fisher had nine points in the half, and Walton had six. Andrew Bynum was effective early scoring six points in the first quarter and two more in the second before sitting down with his third foul. He also pulled down six rebounds.
Lamar Odom picked up the slack with six points and six rebounds. As a team, the Lakers out-rebounded the Magic 24-17 and outscored them in the paint 36-18.
Hedo Turkoglu led the Magic in the first half with 11 points. Dwight Howard had eight but only one field goal. He was six-of-eight from the foul line.
Stan Van Gundy played Rafer Alston in the first quarter then switched to Jamere Nelson for the second quarter. It was Nelson’s first time on the court in almost four months after shoulder surgery. Alston and Nelson each had four points in the half, but Nelson had four assists to one for Alston.
The third quarter turned into the Kobe Bryant show as he equaled his first half point output of 18 and added two more assists, a steal and a block. The Lakers closed out the quarter with an 82-58 lead.
The Magic were unable to gain any advantage on the Lakers even in garbage time as their three-point shots and even their two-pointers continued to fail them. It was partly due to the Lakers defense and their great basket protection with Bynum, Odom and Pau Gasol and partly due to Final Round jitters.
The Magic just shot 35 percent from beyond the arc and barely 30 percent overall while the Lakers shot 46 percent.
But the real story, of course, was Kobe Bryant and the Lakers basket protection. Bryant finished with 40 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, two blocks and two steals.
While Bryant was doing his thing, Bynum, Odom and Pau Gasol did theirs as the Lakers beat the Magic on both boards, 55-41 overall and 15-10 on the offensive boards.
Lamar Odom had another double double with 11 points and 14 rebounds. Pau Gasol had 16 points, 8 rebounds and two blocks.
Andrew Bynum, despite getting five fouls, had one of his better games in the playoffs with nine points and nine rebounds. But more importantly, he kept Dwight Howard away from the basket.
Michael Pietrus, off the bench, was the high scorer for the Magic with 14 points. Turkoglu only added two second half points to finish with 13. Dwight Howard only added four points in the second half for 12 points overall to go with his 15 rebounds.
But with two days off until their second meeting on Sunday evening, the Magic have time to get over their jitters. But can they? And if they do, how will the Lakers adjust?
Phil Jackson said of the two-day layoff, "They (the Magic) have a good opportunity to reassess themselves."
No doubt Stan Van Gundy and his staff will definitely do that.