Los Angeles, CA (Sports Network) - Kobe Bryant is off to a good start in his quest for a post-Shaq championship, scoring a personal NBA Finals-high 40 points with eight rebounds and eight assists, as the Lakers took control before halftime and never let up in a 100-75 victory over Orlando in Game 1.
"We played with a lot of energy. I just want it so bad, so bad," said Bryant.
Pau Gasol added 16 points with eight rebounds, Lamar Odom notched a double- double with 11 points and 14 rebounds and Andrew Bynum donated nine points and nine rebounds for the Lakers, who shot 46.1 percent but more importantly held the Magic to 29.9 percent shooting.
The Lakers have not won a championship since 2002, the last of their three consecutive titles, but have won 14 in the storied franchise history. Bryant is in search of his first solo title -- meaning without the services of Shaquille O'Neal.
Los Angeles is off to a good start, as head coach Phil Jackson, aiming for his record 10th NBA championship as a coach, has a 43-0 mark in the postseason when his team wins the first game.
"There were a lot of little things. Tipped balls, missed shots, we made some shots. It all added up," said Jackson of the game's momentum tipping in Los Angeles' favor.
Orlando's 4-1 offensive set with Dwight Howard in the paint and four sharp- shooting rovers around the perimeter didn't work due in part to an 8-of-23 effort from beyond the arc. Howard only made one field goal, totaling 12 points and 15 rebounds overall. The Magic's leading scorers were Mickael Pietrus with 14 points and Hedo Turkoglu with 13.
"We were totally dominated at both ends of the floor. The biggest thing for us going forward in this series is we need to find a starting point. We need to play a lot better," said Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy.
Those numbers, and the one assist from Rafer Alston, along with the 2-of-10 shooting from Rashard Lewis told the story of Orlando's offensive futility on Thursday. Game 2 is scheduled for Sunday at the Staples Center.
The Magic are in their first NBA Finals since 1995 when they were swept in the championship series by Houston. That Orlando team was led by none other than O'Neal.
The pre-game top story of Jameer Nelson's return proved not to be pivotal, at least Thursday, as the guard appeared rusty at times and scored six points with four assists in just over 23 minutes. Nelson hadn't played since February 2nd versus Dallas and underwent what was called season-ending surgery for a torn labrum in his right shoulder on February 19.
After several weeks of practice, Van Gundy announced his intention to play Nelson earlier Thursday.
If only the rest of the contest was magic to Orlando's ears.
Both teams started hot from the floor, finding an early flow when normal butterflies initially appear. Back-to-back buckets from Derek Fisher and Gasol, the last a rainbow from the foul line, pushed the Lakers in front, 20-16. Orlando tallied eight of the quarter's final 10 points, capped by two Lewis free throws and an Alston running jumper for a 24-22 edge.
Orlando got sloppy defensively and missed 8-of-9 shots during a Lakers spurt midway through the second period. Los Angeles flipped a five-point deficit into a five-point edge with 10 straight points capped by three consecutive Bryant jumpers.
Howard made 1-of-2 free throws to stop the stretch, and more importantly drew Bynum's third foul with 4:21 left. Fisher answered off a Bryant dish with a corner three for a 41-34 advantage.
The Lakers kept the heat on and took a 53-43 edge into the locker room.
It didn't get any better for Orlando in the third -- in fact it looked very much like the Lakers' recipe for success from the second stanza.
Nine points in succession capped by Gasol's layup put the Lakers in front, 68-50. After two Alston free throws, the Lakers put seven more quick points on the board as Bryant's nifty bank shot in traffic and subsequent free throw totaled a 16-2 scoring stretch for a 75-52 game.
Trevor Ariza stepped up and buried a three for an 80-55 margin moments later, and the score stood at 82-58 after 36 minutes of game action.
Bryant spent the early part fourth quarter with a towel over his shoulders on the bench, watching the likes of Shannon Brown and Luke Walton take it home in a resounding Game 1 victory. He re-entered with about five minutes left and Los Angeles holding a 20-plus point lead.
Nelson scored 27.5 points per game in the two regular-season meetings with the Lakers, both Orlando victories...Alston scored six points in defeat...Walton and Fisher each tallied nine points...The Lakers held a 55-41 edge on the backboards...Orlando's Marcin Gortat blocked four shots to go along with four points and eight rebounds.