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Lakers capture 15th NBA championship

ORLANDO, June 14 – Kobe Bryant had 30 points and six assists as Los Angeles went on a 16-0 second-quarter run to defeat the Orlando Magic 99-86 for their 15th National Basketball Association title.
Pau Gasol collected 14 points and 15 rebounds and Trevor Ariza scored 15 points for the Lakers, who won the series four games to one.

Bryant, who had to play through the pain of an injured right finger, was chosen Most Valuable Player of the finals for the first time in his career.

"It means everything," Bryant said. "We sacrificed so much and put in so much time and effort."

The Lakers used a 16-0 burst in the second quarter to erase a 9-0 first quarter deficit in front of a crowd of 17,461 at Amway Arena.

They hit eight straight shots in their run, taking advantage of a balanced attack to get five players in double figures against the offensively-challenged Magic.

The Lakers hadn’t won since 2002, the last of three consecutive titles.

"This is surreal." Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "They did such a good job in the second half. This is a learned team, they are experienced."

Not only did they find salvation after last year’s loss to the Boston Celtics, but Sunday’s win allowed Jackson and Bryant to lift a heavy burden off their shoulders.

Experience and superior execution won out Sunday as Jackson collected his 10th ring to surpass Red Auerbach for the most titles by a NBA head coach and Bryant proved he could win a championship without the help of Shaquille O’Neal.

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"I will smoke a cigar tonight in memory of Red," Jackson said.

Bryant had to play through the pain of an injured right hand, jamming it in the opening quarter while trying to squirm away from the double team of Rashard Lewis and Courtenay Lee.

This was the first postseason matchup between the Lakers and the Magic, who were making just their second finals appearance in 14 years.

Dwight Howard had 11 points and 10 assists and Lewis scored 18 points for the Magic who had knocked off the defending champion Celtics and the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers to get to the finals.

The Lakers shot 43.8 percent, including a whopping 50.0 percent from three point range. The Magic shot just 29.6 percent from the three-point line, missing their first seven attempts before finally making one with just under two minutes left in the first half.

"We didn’t handle the frustration very well," said Magic coach Stan Van Gundy. "They (Lakers) had an answer for everything."

The Lakers took the lead for good 42-40 on a 26-foot three pointer by former Magic Ariza with 4:54 left in the first half.

Lakers led by 10 points at halftime and 76-61 at the end of the third quarter.

In their second consecutive finals appearance, the Lakers atoned for last year’s humbling loss to Boston in six games.

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Bryant had the killer instinct down perfectly Sunday as the game’s best closer helped seal the Magic’s fate.

The Lakers got a scare five minutes into the opening quarter when Bryant appeared to have reinjured his right hand.

During the time out that followed, Bryant took a seat on the Laker bench, grimaced and buried his face in a towel. Unfazed he went on to score nine of his 11 points in the quarter.

Bryant was bent on proving he can win a fourth championship and his first without O’Neal. The dynamic duo won three-straight titles together between 2000-2002.

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