The Los Angeles Lakers couldn’t have hoped for a better start to their Western Conference Finals against the Phoenix Suns on Monday night.
The defending NBA champions came away with a 128–107 crushing win over the Suns to extend their playoff winning streak to seven games. Kobe Bryant drained 40 points.
It was Bryant’s sixth straight 30-point game and 11th career 40-point playoff game. It was clear the 2008 MVP was out to make a statement after being out for a week and nursing a sore knee.
“I just wanted to come out and be aggressive and make their defense have to make an adjustment,” Bryant, who scored 21-points in the third quarter alone, said.
“I practice so much during the season. To take a week off, I’m not going to lose all the work I put in prior to that.”
The Suns opened strong on the Lakers’ home court, building a sizable lead in the early minutes off smart passing from Steve Nash and sharp shooting from Amar’e Stoudemire.
But the Lakers’ big Spaniard Pau Gasol got hot and Bryant added fuel to the fire to tie it up with 3:00 to go in the first quarter. The Lakers never looked back.
Lakers sixth man Lamar Odom ended up taking the game over in the first half shooting 7–9 in field goals and finished the night with 19 points and 19 rebounds.
“[Odum] is such a great player and he sacrifices a lot,” Bryant said. “When he can come off the bench and put up those kind of numbers, it makes it awfully tough.”
The Lakers looked like a well-oiled machine and the Suns’ height disadvantage hurt them on rebounds.
“We played hard, but we didn’t make enough shots, and we had a few too many breakdowns,” Suns point guard Steve Nash said.
Nash’s bruised eye from the San Antonio Spurs series probably looked more painful than it was; the speedy Canadian had 13 points and 13 assists.
All of the Suns’ starters except veteran Grant Hill hit double-digit scoring but only Stoudemire broke 20 points.