It seems that the Lakers have learned the value of extended rest in the postseason, especially considering the multitude of nagging injuries that Gary Vitti has been masterfully treating all season long.
While the starting unit did exhibit minor signs of rust by opening the game with a sluggish tempo, by the latter end of the first quarter, Kobe and Lamar’s aggression laid the groundwork for what would be one of the most explosive third quarters we’ve seen from the Lakers possibly all season – definitely from Mr. Bryant.
The Mamba’s 21 points on 7 of 10 from the floor in the third stanza set a torrid pace for the rest of the team to which they beautifully followed suit, and by the fourth, Phoenix had already turned their attention to Game 2 as Steve Nash did not play a single minute in the final 12. To think that Bynum only played an incognito 19 minutes, barely impacting the game, makes this victory that much more impressive.
There are going to be at least a couple of nights still to come however, when the shots that fell for our Lakers last night will haplessly clank off the rim because that’s just how basketball works. The Suns missed on a lot of their open looks last night, but there will be a game where the majority of those shots will drop and it will be up to us to stay sharp on our rotations and close out to their bevy of shooters.
Before we all jump the gun and expect Kobe to drop 35 or 40 per game, which he basically has been over the last six games averaging 33.3 ppg on a 52% efficiency rate, we must all keep in mind that team defense will be the main constituent to attaining the franchise’s 16th NBA title. Defending hard and playing hard have to be absolute constants for a true championship team.
While I fully expect the Lakers to advance to the NBA Finals, I highly doubt that Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire and the rest of the Suns will just lay down and hand us three more victories on a golden platter. However, I’m more excited to see the mental focus that our team comes out with in Game 2 because the brand of basketball that they are playing is just so enticingly beautiful to watch.
Seven more wins to go, one more ring to win.
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