At the beginning of the second quarter, Jameer Nelson checked into the game for the first time since injuring his shoulder in the first week of February. After four months, the Magic were finally complete and had their leader on the court.
And Nelson quickly made an impact. He scored four points and had four assists very quickly as the Magic took a five-point lead in the early second quarter.
But something was off. Nelson lacked the aggression he had the rest of the season. He was not looking to score and deferred to teammates. Maybe it was the glorification of his play from the beginning of the season, but something seemed off.
For his first game back, Nelson played pretty well. He scored six points and had four assists in 23 minutes. But like the rest of the team, something was missing despite getting some good looks offensively.
Orlando shot 29.9 percent (read that again, please because you will never see that again in an NBA game) and got beat by a more aggressive and determined Los Angeles team, dropping Game One 100-75 at the Staples Center last night.
There is not much that needs to be said offensively. The Magic stuck to the perimeter and, as was pointed out in the broadcast, were clearly bothered by the Lakers' length on the perimeter in the post.
But the looks Orlando was getting were not bad. The team missed all, and I mean ALL, its open shots and settled for jumpers with Dwight Howard struggling on the inside.
It was clear in Game One that this series will rest on Howard's play. Howard scored 12 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. He shot just one of six from the floor but mad 10 of his 16 free throws. Howard clearly became passive in the second half after getting frustrated in the post by Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.
Howard's passes out to the perimeter garnered empty shots and the team could not close the gap.
It was a gap built by Kobe Bryant and pretty much Kobe Bryant alone. Bryant scored 40 points, 18 in the third quarter, and despite pretty decent defense took it to the Magic and got whatever he wanted.
The Lakers outscored the Magic 29-15 in the third quarter, expanding a 10-point halftime lead. Los Angeles' defense started shutting down Orlando's drives and continued to chase the shooters off the arc and back into the traps in the middle.
That is really all that needs to be said about this game.