Los Angeles, CA (Sports Network) – Kobe Bryant dispelled any rumors of his ailing body by dropping 40 points on 13-of-23 shooting from the field to pace the Los Angeles Lakers to a thorough 128-107 beating of the Phoenix Suns in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.
Bryant, who has dealt with a balky ankle and arthritic finger for most of the season, reportedly had a "significant amount of fluid" drained from his right knee, according to the Los Angeles Times on Monday, causing the former league MVP to miss practice time after wrapping up a second-round sweep over Utah last Monday.
The six days of rest apparently fueled Bryant and the rest of the defending champions, who rolled to a seventh straight win since being tied with Oklahoma City, 2-2, in the first round of the playoffs.
Pau Gasol powered an efficient front-court with 21 points, while Lamar Odom added 19 points and 19 rebounds off the bench for LA, which won the rebounding battle, 42-34, and outscored Phoenix in the paint, 56-36.
The Suns, needing to rely on their long range prowess to offset a disadvantage down low, shot a paltry 5-of-22 from behind the arc compared to a surprising 8-of-17 effort for the Lakers.
Amare Stoudemire led Phoenix with 23 points, Jason Richardson scored 15 and Steve Nash ended with 13 points and 13 assists in the setback, the team’s first since a Game 4 loss against Portland in the first round.
Robin Lopez, appearing in his first game since March 26 due to a back injury, recorded 14 points and six rebounds in 24 minutes for the Suns.