After owning game one of the Western Conference Finals with a 40-point effort, Kobe Bryant took over in a different way Wednesday night during the Lakers’ 124-112 win over the Phoenix Suns.
With the Suns sagging off of Ron Artest to help on Bryant, the Lakers’ superstar found wide open passing lanes and used his court-vision to find teammates. Bryant had nine assists in the opening half alone. Bryant finished the night with 21 points, 13 assists and added five rebounds for good measure. The 13 assists was a playoff career-high for Kobe.
What Bryant did was step back and let Pau Gasol dominate the undersized Suns, while picking his spots to make Grant Hill and Jared Dudley look downright foolish defending him. Gasol owned the second half, as Amare Stoudemire couldn’t come close to guarding him. Gasol finished with 29 points and nine rebounds, and he added five assists as well.
Meanwhile, the guy who had a “lucky” game on Monday night, came through again for the Lakers. Lamar Odom, whose 19-point, 19-rebound showing in game one was dubbed “lucky” by Phoenix’s Amare Stoudemire, once again outplayed any of the Suns’ frontcourt players. Odom put in 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
Stoudemire finished with just 18 points and six rebounds. Uh, Amare, in the future, just don’t say anything, OK buddy?
The Suns should be embarrassed by their defense. They allowed the Lakers to shoot 57.7 percent from the field and never made Los Angeles feel remotely uncomfortable during the course of the game. They also gave the Lakers 12 offensive rebounds and lost the rebounding battle by five.
Though Gasol was the leader in points, Bryant was the orchestrator of the offense all night for the Lakers. He made himself even more dangerous by using the pass over his jump shot. He spread the wealth perfectly and now the Suns know they can’t leave anyone open. Artest – who they sagged off of – finished with 18 points (6-of-9 from the field, 3-of-6 from 3-point range).
If anything, Bryant just made this series even more difficult for the Suns.