Entering the Western Conference finals, that was the Lakers’ playoff record when they were outscored in the opening quarter.
Los Angeles was dominated in the first quarter of those four loses, 103-66, and considering it trailed Denver 31-23 after one in Game 1, a fifth setback appeared imminent.
“We didn’t come out with the kind of energy that we wanted to,” Kobe Bryant said after the game.
It was a familiar sight for the Laker faithful: a sluggish, lackadaisical start that lacked urgency and effort.
“I felt like we were kind of doubting ourselves because we got off to a slow start—with that whole stat that the team who wins the first quarter wins the game,” Bryant said.
For Bryant, however, reliving the past was not an option.
He told his teammates during the game to “forget about that. This is a completely different series.”
Bryant couldn’t have been more correct.
In the Houston series, each team lost every time its bench outscored the opposing one. On Tuesday night, the Lakers outscored the Nuggets’ bench 27-16.
In the Houston series, Bryant averaged 1.2 points per field goal attempt. On Tuesday night, the Black Mamba put in 40 points – 18 of which came in the final period – on 27 shots for an efficient 1.5 points per field goal attempt.
In the Houston series, the Lakers could not overcome a first-quarter deficit. On Tuesday night, despite shooting 41 percent from the field (compared to Denver’s 49 percent) and attempting 11 fewer free throws than the Nuggets throughout the entire game, Los Angeles overcame a 13-point first-quarter deficit to defeat Denver 105-103 and take a 1-0 series lead.
“We just had to push through it,” Bryant said.
Push is an understatement. Shove is more like it.
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Written by Josh Hoffman