Game 1 of the Western Conference finals stirred memories of vintage Kobe Bryant and the historically soft Suns defense, as the Lakers cruised a 128-107 win.
Kobe looked energized, exploding to the basket and elevating on his jumpers. He connected on 12-of-23 shots from the floor, including 3-of-6 from downtown.
But the real difference in Game 1 was in the paint.
Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol combined for 40 points and 23 rebounds. Odom was very aggressive all night and played with unusual physicality.
The much-improved Suns defense looked overwhelmed against the bigger Lakers. Robin Lopez looked good in his first game since late March, but Amare Stoudemire got abused by Pau Gasol all night long.
Stoudemire finished with 23 points and just three rebounds. Steve Nash finished with 13 points and 13 assists in limited minutes.
Kobe had to work against Grant Hill, but exploded for most of his 21 points after Hill went to the bench with his fifth foul in the third quarter.
Leading by 14 going into the fourth quarter, Phil Jackson left his starters in while Alvin Gentry rested Nash and Stoudemire. The lead quickly ballooned to 20 and that was that.
The Kobe-Hill matchup should be interesting to watch as this series continues. Jared Dudley is much too slow to stay with Kobe, and Jason Richardson is too small. It’s Hill or nothing for the Suns.
Postgame audio and Shannon Brown missed dunk coming in a bit.