After all the questions about Kobe Bryant’s health entering Monday night’s Western Conference Finals opener against the Phoenix Suns, it seemed like the Los Angeles Lakers might be doomed. Um, nope.
The Lakers crushed the Suns 128-107 thanks to a huge night offensively for No. 24.
Bryant had his knee drained and didn’t practice all week after the Lakers finished off the Utah Jazz, but that didn’t seem to bother him at all. Thanks to a great first half from Lamar Odom, Bryant and the Lakers entered the break up 62-55.
In the third quarter, Bryant took over. Despite lingering injuries to his knee, ankle and index finger, Kobe completely took over the first 12 minutes after halftime, dropping 21 points on the Suns. Bryant made Grant Hill look awful defensively. Jared Dudley and Jason Richardson also took turns shadowing Bryant and both came away looking hapless.
The Mamba just had everything working. His jumper was nearly flawless on the night (13-for-23 from the field, 3-for-6 from 3-point range), he was knifing through Phoenix’s defense to find teammates and he was getting to the line with regularity (11-for-12 free throws).
Kobe finished the night with 40 points, five rebounds and five assists in a dominant performance. It was his 11th career 40-point game in the playoffs. Bryant had more than 30 points in each of the four games against Utah and the final game of the series against the Oklahoma City Thunder. That’s a six-game streak of 30-plus point games, and it doesn’t look like he’s going to let up any time soon.
In addition to Bryant’s fantastic night, the Lakers got contributions from almost everyone on the roster. Odom finished with 19 points and 19 rebounds, Pau Gasol had 21 points, four rebounds and five assists and Ron Artest dropped in 14 points, while adding five rebounds and five assists. Jordan Farmar added 10 points and Shannon Brown also put in nine.
If anyone was wondering whether or not the Suns could effectively defend the Lakers, Monday night gave us a resounding answer: No.
Phoenix allowed the Lakers to shoot 58 percent on the night. Fifty-eight percent. In a playoff game. That’s absurd, and the Suns should be ashamed of themselves. The Lakers also shot 47.1 percent from beyond the arc and out-rebounded Phoenix 42-34.
The only way the Suns can hope to take games in this series is to pray Los Angeles has a huge off-night on the offensive end. The Lakers have too much size and are too disciplined on the offensive end for the Suns to skate by without playing any defense.
Clearly, Kobe Bryant just wont let that happen.