The Lakers will take a 1-0 series lead into the second game of the NBA Finals thanks to a 102-89 win that wasn't really as close as the final 13-point margin. Kobe Bryant topped the ledger with 30 points while Paul Gasol recorded his ninth double-double of the playoffs with 23 points and 14 boards. The Celtics will try to avoid going home to Boston down 2-0 when they lace their sneakers up again Sunday night in LA.
Well, that should ease Pau Gasol’s pain, at least for one day.
Gasol was a rock for the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night, scoring 23 points, grabbing 14 rebounds (eight of those on the offensive glass) and blocking three shots in a 102-89 victory over the Boston Celtics (+6).
Los Angeles only trailed once in this basketball game, after Rajon Rondo made the first bucket of the night. It was pretty much all Lakers from there as they drew first blood in the 2010 NBA finals.
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Everything went the way Gasol envisioned it. As you may recall from our Game 1 preview, the big Spaniard is determined to get his revenge on Boston after he and the entire Lakers team were embarrassed in the 2008 finals. So far, so good. Los Angeles is a much stronger defensive team this year and played like it, out-rebounding the Celtics 42-31 and refusing to be pushed around in the paint.
“They were the more physical team by far,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers told the Associated Press after the game. “They were more aggressive. They attacked us the entire night. I didn’t think we handled it very well.”
Now come the adjustments. Rivers has at least a small handful of positives to carry into Game 2 on Sunday. First and foremost: Paul Pierce. He had a very slow start to this game, harassed by Ron Artest and getting into early foul trouble, but Pierce ended the night with a team-high 24 points and found some success working the pick-and-roll. We could see more of that going forward.
The Celtics bench also came up with a commendable performance in Game 1. Rasheed Wallace brought the nasty as usual, and he also scored Boston’s only 3-pointer of the night as the team finished 1-of-10 from behind the arc.
Meanwhile, Nate Robinson handled himself well in 13 minutes of relief work, dishing out four assists and posting a plus-10 despite missing all three of his shots. Robinson and Rondo even spent some time together in the backcourt as Ray Allen (12 points on 3-of-8 shooting) sat with foul trouble. The Celtics need perimeter scoring to create space inside, and Robinson is 41.4 percent from downtown in a Boston uniform.
As for the Lakers, they were running on all cylinders in this contest. Andrew Bynum made a big difference down low, playing 28 solid minutes even after telling reporters that the swelling had returned to his bothersome right knee. The Gasol-Bynum pairing made Kendrick Perkins virtually invisible in this game; that’s likely to continue on Sunday as Bynum and his knee get an extra day of rest.
Lamar Odom (five points in 21 minutes) was less effective when the Lakers went smaller, but he still ended up with a plus-2 on the evening. And L.A. even got some useful minutes from deep reserves like Luke Walton and Sasha Vujacic. Oh, there’s also this kid named Kobe Bryant who looks like he could be a winner: 30 points on 10-of-22 shooting with seven rebounds and six assists. Nothing wrong with that recipe.
It didn’t take long after the final horn for the first betting odds to go up on Game 2. The Lakers are once again 6-point favorites with a total of 191, the same total from Thursday night. An easy call for the bookies, since the opener ended in a push against the total – depending on when you did your shopping, that is.
The over/under for Game 1 was 193 at the open back on May 30 and didn’t hit 191 until hours before tip-off. You might even be one of those lucky bettors who took the 'over' on a total of 190½ points.
Bryant hit a long 3-pointer with three seconds remaining as he allowed the shot clock to wind down, creating that push (for most of us) and providing the only dramatics of the game from a handicapping perspective.
I’m personally more inclined to lay some wood on the total in Game 2. The 'under' is 3-1-1 in the last five Lakers-Celtics games and 4-1-1 in their last six at Staples Center. Rivers will no doubt motivate his team to step up the defensive effort even further, and I doubt Gasol and the Lakers are about to take their collective foot off the pedal. Of course, you realize, this means war.