The Los Angeles Lakers won Game One of the NBA finals on Thursday, beating the Orlando Magic 100-75 behind a dominant performance from Kobe Bryant. Bryant had 40 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, while Pau Gasol scored 16 points. Lamar Odom finished with 11 points and 14 rebounds for the Lakers, who host Game Two on Sunday.
Mickael Pietrus scored 14 and Hedo Turkoglu had 13 for the Magic, but Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis both struggled and Orlando shot only 29.9 per cent from the field. The Magic, who won both games against the Lakers in the regular season, appeared overwhelmed in their first finals appearance since 1995. Not even the return of All-Star point guard Jameer Nelson from a four-month lay-off following shoulder surgery could help the Eastern Conference champions.
The Orlando centre Dwight Howard was engulfed by two or three Lakers every time he touched the ball and scored 12 points - 10 on free throws - on just one-of-six shooting. And the Magic's outside shooters, so accurate while eliminating MVP LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the conference finals, were off the mark. "We did a good job on Howard, but he'll be ready to go Game Two," Bryant said. "We worked very hard on the perimetre, keeping those guys out of rhythm, then we did a good job on him inside."
The Magic made just eight-of-23 three-pointer attempts and shot only 30 per cent overall. They are facing now a tall order statistically to stop the Lakers winning their 15th NBA title, and their coach Phil Jackson claiming his 10th title as a coach. Jackson has won 43 times without a loss in series in which his team wins Game One. Bryant, the self-proclaimed "Black Mamba" slithered around Magic defenders with ease.
He scored an effortless 18 points in the first half and then took over in the third quarter, scoring 18 of the Lakers' 29 points with an assortment of jumpers, fadeaways and layups. "We wanted to come out and keep our energy up," Bryant said. "We wanted to stay aggressive and it was my responsibility over the course of the game to keep it going." With the 24-second shot clock running down on one possession, he baffled Mickael Pietrus with a head fake and then sliced between Howard and Rashard Lewis, who looked as if they might applaud him, too.
Moments later, Bryant whipped a pass to teammate Trevor Ariza, who buried a three-pointer to make it 80-58 and confirm their dominance. * AP