From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: Gregg Popovich touted the Suns improved defense. Everyone was talking about it. That’s how they were finally going to get over the hump — be just good enough on defense to go with an amazing offense. The Lakers blew that defense up. They blew right by it from the perimeter and right into the heart of the Suns defense. The Lakers drove the ball right down the middle — literally, slashing down the center and into the paint all night long. It was the heart of their surprisingly easy 128-107 win.
From Rob Mahoney, Pro Basketball Talk: Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals made one thing abundantly clear: unless the Suns are able to come up with some truly remarkable performances, the Lakers will win this series. L.A. is so talented and so long that they’ll receive the benefit of the doubt in almost every regard, and barring a transcendent performance from Steve Nash or Amar’e Stoudemire, Phoenix will lose.
From Henry Abbot, Truehoop: Here’s a nice little video analysis of the many points Kobe Bryant scored in the third quarter. The give-and-go with Pau Gasol was the highlight, but do not ignore the artful avoidance of the charge as he scoots around the defender at the rim, finishing with the left hand. A lot of basketball is seen as being about power, but in finishing, there’s a lot of value in having a light touch. It’s almost like ballet. Other assorted observations from Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals:
From Zach Harper, Hardwood Paroxysm: There are plenty of things to talk about in Game One of a Lakers blowing out of the Phoenix Suns. Kobe Bryant went off in a very scary way for Suns fans. David Arquette somehow became the post-game story. Andrew Bynum’s knee was tested and rested. Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown not only looked like NBA players throughout most of their time on the court but they actually looked like they were ready to help this Lakers team hoist up a 16th banner. And Pau Gasol proved that he’s most likely the deadliest post player in the NBA. However, none of that was as important as the playoff sighting of Lamar Odom.
From Phillip Barnett, Talkhoops: Both the Lakers and the Suns went into Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals as one of the hottest remaining playoff teams. The Suns were coming off of an impressive sweep over the Spurs and the Lakers’ sweep of the Utah Jazz was equally as impressive. It was widely believed that the early minutes of Game 1 would give insight into which team could be able to continue inspired play into a third playoff series. Tonight, this was night the case.
From Mike Trudell, Basket Blog: For the 11th time in his storied playoff career, Kobe Bryant scored 40 points while leading the Lakers to an impressive 128-107 victory over Phoenix in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. The home team’s steady all-around effort on Monday at STAPLES Center also featured major contributions from Lamar Odom (19 points, 19 rebounds) and Pau Gasol (21 points, five assists), but it was the snarl of the 2009 Finals MVP that set the tone. “Kobe kind of controlled the whole game,” said Suns head coach Alvin Gentry. “When he’s in the zone like he is tonight, there’s not a whole lot you can do about it.”
From DexterFishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: The Phoenix Suns tonight suffered what Wall Street types refer to as a “market correction.” A few blowouts over an injury-depleted Trail Blazers team in the first round, followed by a second-round sweep of a Spurs squad older than the city of San Antonio itself, engendered irrational exuberance among Suns fans, not to mention a series of shaky hypotheses about how Phoenix would overwhelm the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. The Suns play defense now! A rested Steve Nash would abuse Derek Fisher! Grant Hill is the ideal defender to slow down Kobe Bryant!
From the K-Bros, Land O’ Lakers: With about 3:40 remaining in the third quarter, Kobe Bryant found himself stuck in the right corner, unable to get off his shot. He moved the ball up the right wing to Derek Fisher, who immediately whipped the ball inside to Pau Gasol at the mid-post. With Robin Lopez on his back, Pau executed a perfect no-look bounce pass to a cutting Bryant, who rose to finish at the rim, absorbing a late push- literally- from Channing Frye for the bucket and a little value add in the “and-one.” Kobe dropped the freebie, and the Lakers were up 86-72.
From Sam Amick, NBA Fanhouse: Before Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, Houston small forward Shane Battier sent Phoenix small forward Grant Hill a series of lengthy text messages. They were, in essence, a digital CliffsNotes version of how to guard Kobe Bryant from Battier. Houston’s heady player has slowed the Lakers star more than most and was offering statistically-based assistance to the savvy veteran who was now charged with that assignment. Forty Bryant points and one steamrolling Lakers win later (128-107), it was clear the message didn’t get through.
From Eric Freeman, The Baseline: Lakers 128, Suns 107: Well, this one got ugly pretty fast.L.A. picked apart Phoenix’s defense in the kind of fast-paced game that stereotypes suggest would help the Suns. Yet the Lakers owned Game 1, proving that even with their immense size advantage they’re capable of successfully playing multiple styles. The Suns played badly enough that you can see them coming back in the series, but this was not a good start.
From Eddie Maisonet, Ed The Sports Fan: Name one team in the last 30 years that has won an NBA Championship without having an elite set of big men on the team? Did anyone come up with the 90′s Bulls? That is the only acceptable response to that question. We can go back into the annuls of history and you will not be able to find another team without a dominant frontline that won an NBA title. So unless MJ comes back from that hot tub time machine and drags Pippen and a less mercurial Phil Jackson coaching him, it isn’t going to happen again this year. Can you come up with another squad? Don’t worry, I’ll wait. Cue the Jeopardy music please…thanks.
From Eddie Maisonet, SLAM Online: I’ve been wanting to write this article for months, but to be honest I haven’t had the nerve to write it. You’ve got to have some nerve to write an article where you compare one of the most talented, all-around teams of all-time in the ’86 Celtics to one of the more mercurial and loquacious very good teams with flashes of great ’10 Lakers. There’s just one problem…these two teams are the mirror images of each other.
From Michael Schwartz, Valley of the Suns: Entering the series, I was most concerned about how the Suns were going to match up against the Lakers’ length inside. While Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol certainly made their presence felt, an old foe was largely responsible for torching the Suns in Game 1: Kobe Bryant. As John Hollinger predicted, Kobe was the man who couldn’t be stopped, showing no effects of getting fluid drained from his knee earlier this week by exploding for a 40 spot on 13-for-23 shooting to lead the Lakers to a 128-107 victory in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.
From Seth Pollack, Bright Side of the Sun: That was a good old-fashioned ass-kicking and boy did it suck being here for it. The Lakers were hitting shots, the Suns were flat. The Suns were scoring, but the Lakers were scoring more. Kobe went nuts. The Suns went, oh crap. A truly uninspired way to start the series, but still only one game. Just keep repeating that. It’s only one game. It’s only one game. Can Kobe keep hitting contested shot after contested shot and get to the line as well 12 times as well?
From Justin DeFeo, Sir Charles In Charge: Kobe Bryant once again proving he is the baddest man on the planet and in the third quarter of Game One of the Western Conference Semi-Finals, Bryant point on a display of offensive efficiency and mastery. Bryant’s quarter (21 points, 7-10 FG’s, 6-6 FT’s) help shut the door on the Suns and give his Lakers a 1-0 lead in the series. Analysis provided in video below:
From Mark Heisler, Los Angeles Times: Thanks for coming, Phoenix Suns. Oh, that was just Game 1? In the good news for the Suns, the Western Conference finals are still best-of-seven, so this series didn’t end Monday night… appearances to the contrary in the Lakers’ 128-107 romp. Or is that the bad news for the Suns? As Steve Nash said afterward, “We’ll see….”They’re a lot bigger than us, and they’re probably going to continue to be taller than us as the series goes on.”
From Lisa Dillman, Los Angeles Times: Shane Battier meant well. Really. The Rockets’ forward, two times a member of the NBA’s all-defensive team, had some time on his hands and got to thinking about his buddy Grant Hill taking on the heavy assignment of guarding Kobe Bryant in the Western Conference finals. So Battier sent off an e-mail. There is some debate as to its length — Hill says it was short, most definitely not the five pages mentioned by TNT’s Doug Collins. “You can’t believe everything you hear,” Hill said, smiling.
From Kevin Ding, Orange County Register: Phil Jackson had just finished yet another pointless group interview about his uncertain coaching future. It was Alvin Gentry’s turn to meet with reporters in the hours before Jackson’s Lakers blew out Gentry’s Suns on Monday night. The easy-going Gentry produced probably the most entertaining pregame head-coach interview in Western Conference finals history, candidly and generously handling a variety of issues – including applauding Steve Nash’s counterpunch to Jackson’s jab about Nash carrying the ball.
From Jeff Miller, Orange County Register: They already were leading by 19 points and hadn’t trailed in nearly two hours of real time. They also were shooting close to 60 percent overall and on the verge of giving Game 1 of the Western Conference finals a stunning eight minutes of garbage time. That’s when Shannon Brown tried to demonstrate just how easy all this seemed to be for the Lakers. By not just dunking over Phoenix’s Jason Richardson but by jumping over him, as well. “I didn’t look at the rim until I was in the air,” Brown said. “If I had looked at the rim earlier, it would have been one of the most spectacular plays ever.”
From Vincent Bonsignore, LA Daily News: Lamar Odom is going to like the Western Conference finals. So is Pau Gasol. And if Andrew Bynum can ever get his right knee to cooperate, so will he. For that matter, anyone who Suns’ power forward Amare Stoudemire is guarding – and we use that term very, very loosely – is going to enjoy this series against Phoenix. Stoudemire might be a lot of things – offensively gifted, a physical beast, blessed with a body straight out of Gold’s Gym – but what he’s not is a good defensive player. In fact he’s downright terrible, and the Lakers exploited that weakness time and again Monday in their 128-107 Game 1 victory at Staples Center, using most of the first half to feed the ball to whomever Stoudemire
From J.A. Adande, ESPN’s Daily Dime: Since Kobe Bryant refuses to leave the past behind when it comes to the Suns, nor can he escape it, it’s impossible not to frame Game 1 of these Western Conference finals in the context of where things stood the most recent time the Lakers faced the Suns in the playoffs, three years ago. In 2007 Bryant felt trapped on an inferior squad, one that quickly bowed out to the Suns in the first round while he spent his final postgame interview issuing an icy demand that the front office do something. With Bryant gone, LeBron James turned the playoffs into his own “American Idol” moment, turning in that virtuoso performance in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals. Soon thereafter Bryant began his Radio Free Kobe tour of making trade demands over the airwaves.
From Adam Markazi, ESPN.com: So you think you should know the Lakers by now, don’t you? You think after watching them play about 100 games from the preseason to the postseason you should know their tendencies, their habits and their routines. At this point they should be like that relative who’s always 15 minutes late and never pays his share when you go out to dinner. You don’t turn your back on them, but you learn after a while to show up 15 minutes later than you’re supposed to with a couple of extra bucks in your pocket. You simply adjust your expectations based on their repeated actions.
From Mark J. Spears, Yahoo! Sports: A week had passed since Kobe Bryant had done anything substantial on a basketball court, and when he walked onto the floor early Monday evening, a bright yellow sleeve covered his troublesome right knee. A report earlier in the day said fluid had been drained from Bryant’s knee, the first alarm in Lakerland that something could be amiss. After the Phoenix Suns twice knocked Bryant to the floor and he was slow to get up, the question was fair to ask: Would Bryant’s injury limit him too much for him to be effective in the Western Conference finals?
From Randy Hill, Fox Sports: As dedicated followers of the NBA, we’ve all been exposed to a recent episode of witness tampering. The star of this case is The King, LeBron James, who, while on the way to what was supposed to be his at-last coronation, was taken down at least one peg by the rabble from Boston. A ballyhooed Game 5 swoon created much unrest in the basketball nation, and his Game 6 failure to conquer the Celtics rendered his loyal subjects completely flabbergasted.