Bryant scored 40 points, Lamar Odom added 19 points and 19 rebounds, and the Lakers opened the series with ruthless offensive efficiency in a 128-107 victory on Monday night.
Even with a sore knee and a list of additional aches and pains, Kobe is still among the most dangerous postseason scorers in NBA history, and he had no problem giving Los Angeles an early leg up in the Western Conference finals.
Just being aggressive, playing my game,” Bryant said. “Got shots, took them. Got lanes to the basket, took them.”
Lakers, who won their seventh straight playoff game and snapped the Suns’ six-game streak with a phenomenal second half, highlighted by Bryant’s 21-point third quarter.
“I practice so much during the season,” Bryant said. “In the offseason, I work a lot. To take a week off, I’m not going to lose all the work I put in prior to that.”
Amare Stoudemire scored 23 points and Steve Nash had 13 points and 13 assists for the Suns, who hadn’t lost since April 24
Both teams swept their second-round series to earn their third postseason date in five years, but the Lakers didn’t allow a week off to affect their remarkable execution.
After a 62-point first half for the Lakers, Bryant alternated jumpers and strong drives while Los Angeles pulled away, making a 13-2 run in the third quarter. His 13-for-23 shooting performance included three 3-pointers and 11 free throws with just one miss.
“Kobe carried a lot of the offense tonight, no doubt,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “I will say he was going to shoulder the game. He was going to take it on. He’s been very optimistic through the whole week. He felt like he had the amount of rest and shooting he had to have. He was attentive and involved [in practice].”
Game 2 is Wednesday night at Staples Center.