All of the hype, debate, questions and analysis all came to a head Thursday night, with the Lakers shining much brighter under the beaming lights of the 2010 NBA Finals. It was us, not Boston, who executed a superb defensive game plan with brutish physicality, holding the C’s to 89 points on 43.3% shooting with only 30 points in the paint.
Weren’t we supposedly still “not as tough” as the Celtics? Keep talking, it’s only going to make us stronger.
The proverbial tone was set very early, on the second possession of the game to be exact, when Ron Artest wrestled to the ground with Paul Pierce, both doing their reenactment of Evans vs. Jackson – Ron being Evans on this particular night of course.
Forget first-time jitters, Artest came to L.A. to win his first championship and he’s completely bought into the focused ferocity of Kobe Bryant. As he self-proclaimed in his post-game interview with Hannah Storm, it was really all about his effort to compete last night. The 15 points (3-5 from deep) was “icing on the cake”, as he said as well.
The defensive play of the game was definitely the block-and-snatch that Ron executed beautifully on Big Baby Davis in fourth quarter, which was a definitive indication of the difference between playing with Artest rather than against him.
Granted Paul Pierce had a strong outing with 24 points, but 12 of those came via the free throw line, which I’m sure will be addressed by Phil Jackson prior to Game 2. However, Artest limited Pierce to 6 of 13 from the field and provided the physical presence against the C’s captain that was lacking in 2008.
The rest of the Boston Celtics meanwhile, looked frustrated and confused, allowing early foul trouble to affect their usually steady play.
It was on the glass where they really lost Game 1 as the Lakers crushed them 42-31 in rebounds (12-8 offensive), also winning 16-0 in second chance points – yes, 16 to nada.
Boston also let the Lakers shoot 52% from the field in the first half and 48% for the game, giving up 48 total points in the paint as well.
We all know how much the C’s pride themselves on protecting the paint, but last night, they were leagues behind our bigs, Pau and Drew.
All of the Laker faithful could not help but look to the absence of Andrew Bynum the last time we squared off against Boston in the Finals without thinking, “if only…”, and he proved exactly why, with 10 points (4-6) and six rebounds.
More so than his statistical contributions though, Bynum’s presence on the floor alone gave the Lakers the luxury of controlling all things inside the paint, be it scoring or defense.
Most importantly, Drew gave us 28 minutes of gutty effort and focus, with his knee looking relatively strong as well – a sight that we all certainly welcome with open arms. It will be interesting to see how his game is affected by shortened rest as the series shifts to Boston next week.
Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown pitched in with 10 points combined off the bench and really sparked us in the second quarter, getting to the rim with ease on multiple possessions.
In a series where speed is a critical element of the game with firecrackers like Rajon Rondo on the floor, it was our two back-up guards who exposed the Celtics’ defense with quick dribble penetration.
They also both did an exceptional job guarding Rondo and Ray Allen, which must continue if the Lakers hope to win this series.