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Tony Parker

Another way you could title this post is, “Kobe Takes The First Half Off, Lakers Get Down By 20, Still Win” and it would capture pretty much what went on last night in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final. After finishing the first half with only two more points than I scored, Kobe came alive in the third quarter as the Spurs pushed a halftime lead out to 20 points. Apparently, that was the key to getting his attention as he led his team back to beat the Spurs, 89-85.

Bryant finished with 27 points, 25 coming in the second half, including the go-ahead basket.

Kobe’s first half was surreal enough — Bryant only took three shots — to make Phil Jackson wonder if his star had been on vacation. Of course, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was having none of that as he offered his assessment of Kobe’s game:

“Kobe, he was doing a trust-his-teammates thing in the first half. That’s why he had five assists, and he was checking it all out and see where his territory was going to be. In the second half, he went to work. Obviously a difficult loss and we had a great opportunity. We didn’t take advantage of it. Hurts like hell.”

For the Spurs, they were led by Tim Duncan, who had a monster game with 30 points, 18 rebounds and 4 blocked shots. However, if the Spurs are going to win this series, they are going to need more from Manu Ginobili, who finished with 10 points after shooting 3-13 from the floor.

Ginobili also missed a wide-open 3-pointer in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter. Had that gone in, the Spurs would have taken a 1-point lead with 8 seconds left. Of course, that’s plenty of time for the Kobe Bryants of the world, but the point remains. You can’t miss wide-open shots down the stretch. In the NBA Playoffs, made baskets are an incredibly valuable commodity.