Part I, In Which The Mamba Sinks It’s Teeth In: Orlando at LA, Game 1

  • That’s the best game I’ve ever seen from Kobe Bryant. That amazing passer, the brilliant shooter, the elite competitor, the terrific defender, everything. He was smarter than his defenders, quicker than his defenders, more powerful than his defenders, and when they managed to stay with him, he just hit the shot anyway. He hit shots with contact, worked out of the double team, his passes were right on target, and he gave everyone what they wanted. A virtuoso performance that makes him look like the best player in the world again. ABC Execs are happy, ESPN producers are happy, bandwagon fans across the country are happy, it’s more interesting than the Magic winning, and Jackson looks like a genius again. It’s a win for everyone but the Magic and small market fans.
  • You’re going to hear the “Die by the three” stuff. Don’t buy into it. That assumes the Magic would have cooled off anyway, and does a disservice to the Lakers defense.
  • The Lakers used the paint as a headquarters. They centered there, and used it to spring out on passers, to disrupt passing lanes, to close out on shooters, and it was incredibly effective. Great defensive gameplan by Phil Jackson.
  • Dwight Howard didn’t attack the basket, and when he did, the refs let ‘em play. They let ‘em play at the other end, so you can’t blame the officials. He was completely ineffective.
  • Usually either Turkoglu or Lewis play well for three quarters, then the other one takes over in the fourth. The Lakers shut them both down. They made Lewis play his position, power forward, and just beat him down.
  • Courtney Lee is going to have a great career. But putting him against Bryant was too much, too soon.
  • Luke Walton was supposed to be the Lakers weak link off the bench. He was superior to everyone on the Magic. Great defense, got buckets, made smart plays, completely terrific on both ends of the floor.
  • If LA plays like this for four games? It’s broom time.
  • I took Orlando in seven over at FanHouse because I’d ridden the Magic all playoffs, and I took them in seven because of how great I knew the Lakers could be when they tried. The more I’ve thought about it, the more a Lakers sweep seemed like a possibility. Like, in the Conference Finals, I knew a Cleveland sweep was impossible because of how good Orlando is. But maybe Orlando’s just not as good as the Lakers. I know it’s just one game. But that was about as dominating as it gets. This is what I feared all year. I had anxiety in November about the Lakers removing the element of surprise. well, they teased a surprise with their earlier failures. And perhaps now is when they prove they are a great team. Maybe now is when Kobe takes his place, finally, where Lakers fans feel he is. Maybe now is where Orlando is revealed as a fraud. I don’t want to think that, especially after one game, but the regular season, the matchup advantages, and Kobe freaking Bryant scare me otherwise.
  • I mean, don’t get me wrong, Orlando had a bad night. Even when the Lakers defense wasn’t great, they just didn’t shoot well. LA shook their confidence, and that affected everything they did.
  • Hey, good news. The small market team got wiped off the map. So we don’t have that terrible story to deal with. Sigh.
  • Jameer Nelson played really well for his first game in four months. Not bad at all. Certainly better than Rafer. Nice to see you, Rafe. Here are the knives you stuck in your team’s back. They had some rust on them since you’ve been helpful for three weeks. Might want to clean that off.
  • In a season when realistically, the Lakers were the best team all season, downing Boston and Cleveland with little resistance, wouldn’t it be just like them to rob us of a compelling Finals series after a terrific playoffs? From Boston-Chicago to LA-Houston to Boston-Orlando and the ECF, it’s been lots of fun. But the story might just be “Kobe Freaking Bryant.”
  • By the way, SVG got worked by Phil.
  • Battie for so many minutes? Why? For what purpose? To what end?
  • Meanwhile, Phil used his bigs in good rhythm, managed an effective defense, created a great offensive flow, and had answers for everything.
  • What’s the point?

Matt Moore

Matt Moore is a Senior NBA Blogger for CBSSports.com's Eye on Basketball blog, weekend editor of Pro Basketball Talk on NBCSports.com, and co-editor of Voice on the Floor. He lives in Kansas City due to an unbelievably complex set of circumstances and enjoys mid-90's pop rock, long walks on the beach and the novels of Tim Sandlin.