Phil Jackson said it best when he uttered his first words during Monday’s post-game podium address, “This was a surprise for us.”
For over a week without a game to analyze, NBA reports have provided nothing but filler regarding the two teams left in the Western Conference. We’ve been fed mercilessly with commentary about injuries such as Andrew Bynum’s knee, Kobe Bryant’s knee and fingers, and Steve Nash’s nose. There were daily discussions in sports radio about Suns’ pick-and-roll versus the Lakers’ triangle offense; Suns’ superior bench versus the Lakers’ inconsistent reserves; Suns’ small line-up compared to the Lakers’ gargantuan frontline.
It has been seven days’ worth of dissecting each team’s strengths and weaknesses. It resulted in the obvious expectation that the Lakers would play big, and the Suns would play quickly. There weren’t many surprises to look forward to… until tonight’s enchanted evening.
The Lakers played their best game of the post-season, even trumping the Game 5, 24-point beat down of the Oklahoma City Thunder so very long ago. Tonight, the Lakers put their foot on the gas on both ends of the floor and sped right through the finish line with a convincing 128-107 victory against the NBA’s hottest team.
Despite falling behind early, with Phoenix’s Steve Nash doing what he does best in orchestrating the Suns’ offense, the Lakers soon found lift upon Lamar Odom’s arrival onto the floor. With a bank-in jumper followed by a spot-up three, Odom evened the score at 22. Kobe Bryant’s off-balance, buzzer-beating fadeaway jumper in front of the Laker bench capped off an 18-4 run that gave the home team a 35-26 advantage to end the first.
A lot has been made of the Suns’ much-improved defense this past season, and especially in the playoffs. Unfortunately, they were still no match against the offensive wiles of one Kobe Bryant, who torched each one of his defenders one by one — Grant Hill, Jason Richardson, Jared Dudley, and any Sun who tried to get in his way (or rather out of his way).