Playing for Keeps: Kobe Bryant

Markel

Kobe Bryant played like a man possessed during game one of the NBA Finals. The look in Kobe’s eyes as he drilled dagger jumpers in front of Mickael Pietrus speaks volumes about the mission he is embarking on.

Pietrus played quality defense but Bryant was just too much. Splitting two or three defenders on his way into the lane, shaking off his man while spinning and hitting the turnaround jump shot; Kobe played like a man possessed. Not once did Bryant smile during game one. He didn’t even crack a grin while watching the Lakers third string guys carve up the Magic starters.
We learned something about Kobe and the Lakers during game one. The Lakers are not soft as they won the rebounding battle 55-41. The length of the Lakers proved trouble for the Magic as Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Kobe Bryant, and Lamar Odom all had at least eight rebounds, with Odom leading the way with 14. Unlike the Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets, Orlando is hardly a nitty-gritty physical team. Look at the way Houston defended Kobe Bryant; Ron Artest and Shane Battier made contact with Bryant at every possible opportunity. They hit him in the back, knocked him to the ground. Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu, and Mickael Pietrus are not playing defense like that.
Orlando had no problems controlling rebounds against Cleveland, which is odd because Cleveland has size and can rebound extremely well. The Lakers kicked it up a notch defensively though, with Lamar Odom leading the way. It wouldn’t be surprising to see this series return to Amway Arena with the Magic down 2-0. Orlando can compete with the Lakers; they were 2-0 against them in the regular season. The question is, can the Magic compete with Kobe Bryant?

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