A few thoughts from Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics.
Before the series starts, I guess I should go ahead and let it be known my prediction for the whole thing.
Lakers in six.
Let’s just say I’m not going way out on a limb here.
Check back for my thoughts during the game.
I look back at my prediction and I can’t help but notice the warning signs:
Boston has a deeper frontcourt and should control the boards.
Boston can play defense; the Lakers are 54-10 when they score in the 100s, 3-15 when they don’t,
The Lakers are small.
Do we really think Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom will come through on a big, BIG, stage?
Can’t Paul Pierce, guts personified, match anything Kobe Bryant does?
This could be a really good series. Really, it could.
But Bryant could go for 40 a game against Ray Allen. Kevin Garnett could keep passing up runners in the lane by passing to a scared Rajon Rondo for 20-footers. Phil Jackson could make Doc Rivers look like me on the sideline.
So why Lakers in six?
I think Kobe kills ’em.
5:58 Two rusty teams, but I like Garnett’s aggresiveness and willingness to take shots instead of shying away from them. He’s not making all of them, but he’s active and a presence.
Four different Lakers have scored and not one of them is named Kobe. In fact, Allen has done a nice job on him early, forcing Bryant into tough jump shots that the bigger Celts are rebounding. 10-all.
3:19 Silky. Allen makes a nice runner off the glass and then rips a 3 with a flick of the wrist. Six points from him and eight from KG, and the Celtics are keeping a hand in Kobe’s face. 19-14, C’s.
10:12 Celtics lead 27-23, but Mark Jackson just said that Doc Rivers told him that Doc “has big plans for Sam Cassell.”
Boston fans can’t like hearing that.
5:49 Garnett is just owning Gasol. Granted, Garnett is hot, but he’s doing it facing up, driving to the rack, on faders. It’s nasty. He’s got 16 points and five boards already.
Gasol doesn’t even have a rebound yet.
Still, in watching the game it looks like Boston is playing better. Yet it leads by only five, 40-35.
4:17 Rivers and the C’s have to be careful here. Pierce just picked up his third foul (why was he out there?) and now Allen gets his second. These are two of the guys charged with chasing Kobe, and they’re in foul trouble. And the Lakers lead, 43-42.
The game is being played at L.A.’s pace as the Lakers, against the best defense in the NBA, are shooting 50 percent from the field. Gasol has come alive and Kobe is distributing, and it’s an entertaining ballgame.
Rondo looks both afraid and like a veteran; his array of floaters is going to be fun to watch over the next few years. Pierce needs to get on the floor and be effective, though, if the Celts are going to win a must-have Game 1.
10:50 And there’s Pierce. Four-point play as Boston goes on the build a 56-53 lead.
6:49 Bryant, after a dazzling pass to Gasol — those two really do work well together — hits on a pretty fadeaway to push the Lakers back up by four.
But our hope for a great series is writhing on the floor as Pierce is grabbing his right knee in pain.
5:17 HERE COMES WILLIS REED!
Actually, it’s Pierce, bouncing out of the locker room. The report is a sprained knee and he’ll be back.
46 seconds I don’t know what to say here. Pierce hits back-to-back daggers, deep 3s to give the Celts a four-point lead, 75-71. Brilliant stuff.
But with the crowd going bananas, Pierce commits a stupid foul on Bryant, his fourth of the game. What?
Quick, before the final period starts — how many times do you think we’ll see the Bryant/ KG half-face commercials over the next two weeks? I’m putting the over/under at 5,246,738.
8:42 Two bad shots by Cassell, but he’s picked up by a bad pass by Lakers’ backup point guard Jordan Farmar. Cassell hits one and then Garnett finds James Posey for a wide open 3. 86-78, biggest lead for the C’s.
2:57 Celtics rebuild their lead back to eight before a questionable blocking foul on P.J. Brown on Odom’s layup. Lakers can cut it to five. Brown has really given Boston some life after Kendrick Perkins had limped off earlier with an ankle sprain. But that’s the kind of frontcourt depth the C’s have.
1:28 Bad shot. Bad shot. Bad shot. Bad shot by Posey with 10 on the shot clock, but KG comes in untouched and dunks home the offensive board. 94-86, Celtics.
Final Celtics 98-88
For all the static KG gets for not being a big-time player in the postseason, maybe this season will put those doubts on the back-burner.
Garnett has now gotten to the finals, but more than that, he’s been better in the postseason than he was as a viable MVP candidate during the season. KG’s averages are up across the board in the playoffs, and his 24 points and 13 boards in Game 1 were all huge. He had a big start to set the tone, then made a big-time move on Gasol late to draw the foul and hit two foul shots to make it a three-possession game. And don’t forget the crash and dunk.
Pierce and Allen were really good, too, and so was Rondo, who brought back visions of Dennis Johnson with a 16-6-7 performance. That’s big stuff.
More importantly for the Celtics was their swarming of Bryant. Sending Allen, Pierce and Posey smothered Kobe, forcing him to shoot off-balance jumpers with hands in his face. Boston kept sending fresh defenders at him, giving each guy a break, and Kobe finished 9-for-26 from the field for 24 points.
All that said, all L.A. wants is a split, and Boston will need a lot of the same to win Game 2 on Sunday. This was a well-played game that was close throughout, with a ton of ties and lead changes. These are two very evenly-matched teams, and it could be awhile before the series is settled.
But it’s a good start for Boston, and a tougher win in six for the Lakers now.