NBA Finals: Los Angeles Lakers Fire on All Cylinders in Game One

Brian WagnerCorrespondent IJune 5, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 04:  The Los Angeles Lakers stand during the national anthem before taking on the Orlando Magic in Game One of the 2009 NBA Finals at Staples Center on June 4, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Well, I generally write about football, but I pride myself on loving all sports. So here I go…

Plus, the “Trojan” in me and my Los Angeles origins allow me to be a huge Lakers fan. In Los Angeles today—and this past week—we have been gearing up for a Finals that means a lot: revenge from last season, bringing another championship to the City of Angels, and of course, Kobe’s attempt to win his first title without The Diesel.

Well, the Lakers came out tonight with no regrets. From the very beginning, everyone was playing with a "sense of urgency,” something Kobe Bryant stressed they needed to do.

After losing both games to the Orlando Magic in the regular season, they were going to have their hands full again. This just in: Dwight Howard is no softy.

The overwhelmingly most physically demanding player in the league is such a tough task to handle in the frontcourt, no matter who sits on the other side of the court.

But Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, and even Lamar Odom came to play. Bynum got into foul trouble early, but did a phenomenal job not allowing Howard the big play—the dunk.

All three of the Lakers' big men did exceptionally well. Pau Gasol had 16 points and eight rebounds, while Bynum had nine points and nine rebounds. Lamar Odom—coming off the bench—was spectacular, putting down 11 points while grabbing 14 off the glass.

We knew rebounding and the Lakers' frontcourt play was going to be a factor, and the Lakers came to play.

While the frontcourt maintained spectacular play throughout the contest, it was ultimately the Lakers’ superstar that carried the victory for the fans in Staples Center on Thursday night.

Kobe Bryant was unconscious. His 61st 30-point game in the postseason was also his first 40-point affair.

Kobe took the team on his shoulders. And on a relatively poor shooting day (16-34) he showed why he is a former MVP and three-time NBA Champion: he kept attacking, was perfect on free throws, and so tough while driving to the basket.

Aside from garnering a whopping 40 points, he dished out eight assists and pulled down eight boards.

Truly a master of the game.

Kobe is going to get his points, and play like a superstar every night; especially in the NBA Finals. But the numbers he put out tonight and the desire in which he played with tonight was remarkable.

No one will ever stop the Black Mamba when he’s in the zone.

Lastly, collectively, the Lakers defense played some of their best ball tonight I have seen in a long time. Forcing the Magic to shoot 29 percent from the field and holding Dwight to 12 points and few, if not, zero dunks. Wait, did you catch that: 29 percent!

No matter what you say, the Magic will likely not shoot that poorly again in this series. But the Lakers earned it. And they will take it.

The Lakers put up an outstanding performance by the frontcourt, but especially the perimeter defense. The Magic came in renounced as one of the top three-point shooting teams in the NBA, which is indubitably true, but the Lakers held them only to eight of 23 from beyond the arc. More spectacular play from Showtime, indeed.

You can say what you want about the Lakers: critics point of the soft play of the post defenders, and the "soft" Andrew Bynum when going up to score.

Many experts are consistently ranking LeBron James higher than Kobe Bryant as the best player in the league.

And sorry for the clichés, but these guys have resilience. They have heart. They have desire.

But most of all, they have championship intensity. That intensity may have been lacking a week and a half ago when the Lakers and Nuggets were knotted at 2-2 in the Western Conference Finals.

But they have found their groove. And they have it now.

If they continue this way, my prediction of Lakers in six may shift to Lakers in four. I don’t want to speak too soon, but the Lakers sure looked tough to beat tonight.

Especially with No. 24 on your side. 

This orginal article can be found on The Purple Trojan

Brian Wagner is a Staff Writer at Most Valuable Network


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