April 20, 2008- STAPLES CENTER - LOS ANGELES. The Lakers are not a one-man show anymore, and the Denver learned it the hard way. It wasn't the best game for the Lakers but it was a rout of the Nuggets 128-114 in their first game in the 2008 NBA Playoffs.
Denver focused its defense on Kobe Bryant and it kind of worked early when he forced shot after shot and then became an spectator to end the first half with 4 points on 2-for-10 shooting. But the Lakers are much more than Kobe these days and Pau Gasol wasn't ready to miss the opportunity to win his first Playoff game in 13 attempts, he kept the team alive with his with 36 points, 16 rebounds, 8 assists and 3 blocks. Not only it was a basketball lesson, Gasol's performance came against last season Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Camby. Lamar Odom also looked great, providing 17 points, 14 rebounds (6 offensive), 6 assists and tons of energy. Walton was the other player that helped complement the early lack of scoring from Kobe and ended with 16 points.
Carmelo Anthony had 30 points and 12 rebounds and Allen Iverson added 30 points before being ejected after picking up two technical fouls with 2:10 remaining, Linas Kleiza scored a career playoff high 23 points. They all contributed to make it a game in the first 2 periods and were only trailing 58-56 by halftime. L.A. made the difference in the third outscoring Denver 39-22, then in the fourth an 11-2 run by the Nuggets made it 101-91 with 8:17 remaining but Kobe picked it up from there and scored 18 points in those final 8 minutes to preserve the margin. Despite his shooting struggles Kobe ended with 32 points and now he knows for sure he doesn't have to be best player on the team every night.
Phil Jackson (LAL Coach): "Our job remains to win the game at home on Wednesday night and establish some momentum in this series and put them in a desperate situation, going home and having to win"
Kobe Bryant (Lakers): "I knew he (Gasol) could perform at a high level, this just ain’t Memphis. I think this offense has freed him up a little bit and showcased more what he can do instead of just being in the post all the time".
Lamar Odom (Lakers): "A big-time player, top 10 in the league, definitely", said about Pau Gasol
Allen Iverson (Nuggets): "(Ken Mauer) made the right decision about throwing me out. I was frustrated, but I deserved to get thrown out."