It had to be an especially difficult night for Alston, not just because the team lost but because he saw the game slip away as he sat the entire second quarter. When he left the game at the end of the first quarter, the Magic had a two-point lead. When he came back, the Magic were behind by 10 and he was completely out of rhythm, having not played for about 45 minutes.
The Lakers' long front line was Superman's kryptonite Thursday. Despite a nice rebounding effort, Howard's inability to generate more offense was a big reason the Lakers outscored the Magic 56-22 in the paint.
Lewis' only two baskets were three-pointers. Orlando is in for a long series if Turkoglu and Lewis both struggle at the offensive end. Meanwhile, Lakers forwards Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom combined for 27 points (on 12-of-23 shooting) and 22 rebounds.
Big man Marcin Gortat gave Orlando some good minutes in the first half after Howard went to the bench with two fouls. Mickael Pietrus shot poorly early, scoring most of his 14 points after the Lakers had built a comfortable lead. The big story for the Magic bench was the return of Jameer Nelson, who had six points and four assists in 23 minutes in his first game in four months. Though the Magic went on a quick 5-0 run as soon as he came into the game in the second quarter, it was clear he shouldn't have been on the floor for as long as he was.
Stan Van Gundy, Head Coach
It might be a harsh grade -- Van Gundy has drawn praise for leading Orlando to 59 regular-season victories and its first Finals berth in 14 years -- but it made no sense to play Nelson for the entire second quarter and allow Alston, who had helped the Magic reach this point, get cold as he sat through the entire second quarter and halftime before getting back on the court. There was a fear that Nelson's return might ruin the Magic's rotation and chemistry, and that seemed to be the case late the second quarter as the Lakers took control of the game.
He played a smart game, facilitating for his teammates and taking shots only when they were open. After posting all of his offensive production in the first two quarters, he didn't do much in the second half, but the Lakers didn't seem to be hurt by it in running away from the Magic.
The scowl on Bryant's face for the past week was a precursor to the best Finals game he's played. Bryant scored a Finals-career-high 40 points, 30 coming in the second and third quarters when the Lakers pulled away. In addition, he came close to a triple-double.
In his first Finals appearance, Bynum came out and played with purpose, scoring 8 points and grabbing four rebounds in the first eight minutes. After that he pretty much disappeared, scoring only one more point the rest of the way while getting into foul trouble against Dwight Howard.
Ariza's real impact can be seen in Orlando's poor offensive numbers. He was a gnat out there, getting in the face of the Magic's shooters and not allowing them open looks. That said, he hit only one shot to go along with a quiet floor game; the Lakers usually expect more from him than that.
Playing his role as Bryant's sidekick perfectly, Gasol excelled on both ends of the floor. Gasol did a great job defensively on Howard, forcing him out of the game late in the first quarter after drawing an offensive charge, Howard's second foul. On offense, Gasol was his usual efficient self, adding a trio of baskets in each half while serving notice that it could be a long series for Rashard Lewis.
87 min., 23 points, 25 rebounds, 4 assists
Maybe Lamar Odom should eat more candy the way he's playing lately. He's strung together three great games for the first time in a while, finishing with 11 points and 14 rebounds. Luke Walton also had another solid game, adding nine points and three rebounds.
Phil Jackson, Head Coach
In no sport and for no other coach is Game 1 as meaningful as it is for Jackson, who is 43-0 in the playoffs when he wins the series opener. Knowing the importance of the opening game after losing the last two in the Finals, he shortened his bench and stuck with the players who got the team there, allowing Bryant the freedom to do what he does best.
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