Lakers getting it done on defense
Originally Published: June 5, 2009By John Hollinger | ESPN.com
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty ImagesL.A.'s two 7-footers, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, made it difficult for the Magic to score inside.LOS ANGELES -- Of all the stats from L.A.'s Game 1 blowout of Orlando on Thursday night, this one might be the most eye-popping: Kobe Bryant 16, Orlando Magic 15. L.A.'s star guard made more 2-point baskets than the entire Magic team in Game 1, a testament to both the impressive display put up by No. 24 and the swarming defense played by the purple and gold. We've already heard plenty about the former, so it's now time to dissect the latter. And to get to the roots of the Lakers' defensive dominance in Game 1 of the Finals, we have to go back a little over a week ago, to the middle of their conference finals series against Denver. It's easy to forget now, but it appeared L.A. was against the ropes. The Lakers were tied 2-2 after four games against a Denver team that appeared healthier and more energized, and the general consensus was that an L.A. team worn out from a seven-game second-round series against Houston might lack the stamina to finish the Nuggets out. That hypothesis seemed further validated when the Nuggets scored 56 points in the first half of Game 5 in Staples Center, raced out to a seven-point lead early in the third and seemed en route to stealing home-court advantage from their weary opponents. However, from that point, the Lakers found a reserve of energy that few thought existed, and they've kept it up for 10 straight quarters. And it has all started at the defensive end.