Monday, May 17, 2010

Kobe Bryant Scores 40 Makes Lakers Win

The basketball fans soared high kickin' some buts when the Lakers struggled to the end of the regular season and then were dominated in Games 3 and 4 by Oklahoma City in the first round of the playoffs. But, we're seven games removed from that and it was also the last time the defending NBA champions lost.

Kobe Bryant started playing like Kobe Bryant again as Los Angeles Lakers' 128-107 win over the Phoenix Suns, Kobe Bryant had 40 points, including a remarkable 21 points in the third quarter of the Western Conference finals opener. Game 2 in the best-of-seven series is Wednesday at Staples Center.

It really wasn't much of a game once Kobe Bryant took over. It was the fifth consecutive game in which Bryant has scored more than 30 points. He scored his 40 on 13-of-23 shooting from the field while making 11 of 12 from the line. He made three of six three-pointers.

Perhaps the greatest praise for Kobe Bryant came from two-time MVP Steve Nash of the Suns, who was held to a below-average 13 points.

"I don't think we sent him to the line a lot," Phoenix Suns' player Steve Nash said. "I don't think we let him inside a lot, but still he scored a ton." Kobe Bryant played only 35 minutes as he left the game with about nine minutes to play and nothing left to prove. As the game wound down, even the normally nervous Lakers crowd started to loosen up, chanting: "We want Boston."

The Boston Celtics have a 1-0 lead over the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference finals, with Game 2 on Tuesday.

"Kobe had an outstanding game," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said in an understatement of fact. "Pau (Gasol) played a fine game and so did Lamar (Odom)."

Pau Gasol contributed 21 points while Odom had 19 points and 19 rebounds. "Kobe carried a lot of the offense tonight," Phil Jackson said. "He came in and was going to shoulder the game."

Kobe Bryant's health is a constant topic around Los Angeles. The Times reported on Monday that he recently had a "significant" amount of fluid drained from his knee, something Phil Jackson verified although he said it was not done this past weekend.

And Kobe Bryant certainly made everyone forget about his date with a syringe early when he came out and scored 11 points in the first quarter. But there was an anxious moment with 1:46 left in the opening period when he slipped as he drove down the lane and fell on his injured knee. It hushed the sellout crowd of 18,997. But what was hurting him was his head, which banged into Phoenix guard Jason Richardson as he fell.

How did he respond? He got up, stayed in the game and sank a 17-footer at the buzzer. It was that kind of game for Bryant.

"When he's making those shots, there's not a whole lot more you can do about it," said Suns Coach Alvin Gentry.

"Every time he plays, he takes it personal. . . . He knows how important the first thing is."

Amare Stoudemire was the main reason the Suns were only seven points behind at the half before Kobe Bryant took over in the third. Stoudemire scored 15 of his 23 points in the first half and was the Suns' leading scorer. Richardson added 15 points with Robin Lopez contributed 14.

Besides Kobe Bryant, another subplot around Los Angeles has been the future of Jackson. He is in the last year of a contract that pays him $12 million a year. He said he would decide his future after the playoffs but in a radio interview he did before the weekend he said he was leaning toward retiring.

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