LOS ANGELES - The Los Angeles Lakers produced a dazzling display at both ends of the floor to crush the Orlando Magic 100-75 in the opening game of the NBA Finals on Thursday.
Kobe Bryant scored 40 points and had eight assists and eight rebounds to lift the Lakers, seeking their first title since 2002 when they had Shaquille O'Neal safeguarding the paint.
Bryant, the 2008 league MVP, scored 18 points in the third quarter when the Lakers expanded a 10-point halftime lead to 82-58 with a quarter to play.
The 30-year-old, 11 times All-Star guard connected on 16 of 34 shots while scoring his career high in the NBA Finals.
"I told these guys it doesn't matter whether we win by 60 or six in this game," said Lakers coach Phil Jackson. "It's just one win. We've got to try to go out and establish that again on our home court on Sunday."
Los Angeles shot 46 percent from the floor but it was their suffocating defense that was responsible for the dominating win.
The Lakers limited All-Star center Dwight Howard to 12 points, on just one of six shooting.
Howard, who was double and triple-teamed at every opportunity, entered the game averaging 21.7 points in the post-season.
"Things just didn't go right for them tonight," said Jackson. "They didn't get things in rhythm and they didn't get things in the paint that they normally get, and those situations change the complexity of the game.
"The first half was nip and tuck right up until the end of the second quarter. We were able to come out and play with a different type of an attitude the second half."
The Magic stopped LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals by consistently hitting outside shot but their bombers were silenced by the Lakers' pressure defense.
Orlando shot just 29.9 percent from the floor, including eight of 23 from beyond the arc, and were outrebounded 55-41.