Home cookin' was sure scrumptious in the Garden tonight. Boston took Game 1 in the first Finals dual between the two storied franchises in 20-years by a score of 98-88. On the back of the Big 3 that contributed 65 of the Celtics' 98 points and role players like Sam I am Cassell and Rajon Rondo, who combined for 23-points, the Celtics overcame the deep offensive attack of the Lakers to take a 1-0 lead in this best-of-seven series.
The first half was a story of the Celtics not being able to contain, much less stop anyone part of the Lakers offensive attack. While holding Kobe Bryant to only 8-points in the first half, the Celtics werent able to contain the likes of Derek Fisher, whom dropped 13-points nor were they able to have good pick n' roll defense as they allowed both Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom to slash to the basket on numerous occasions. Gasol wound up with 12 first half points, his contributions helping cullminate into the Lakers shooting 50% from the field, far above the League leading average held by the Celtics of 41%.
Defensively, the Celtics were lacking considerably, offensively they werent, at least from one of the Big 3, Kevin Garnett. Of Garnett's 16 first half points, and his 9-field goal attempts, six were made. And of those six made shots, only one of them was from within the painted area. Garnett went on to finish the night 24-points and a total of 22 shot attempts. I dont know if my memory is failing me or not, but I only remember maybe three or possibly four of those attempts being from inside the paint. The majority of what Garnett contributed for his Celtics was from the free throw line (6-6) and jump shooting, which he was extremely efficient with in the first half before going stone cold in the 2nd -- something I predicted while watching the final few minutes of the first half. And while Garnett put up his 16 in the first half, Rajon Rondo and Sam Cassell picked up all the slack with a combined 16-points, while Paul Pierce only played 16-minutes due to three fouls, finishing with only three points.
Then the second half came, where the game completely flipped.
From the onset of the second half, it was imperitive that Paul Pierce became a force for the Celtics after they had gone into the locker room down by five. (51-46) In the first 1:20 of the 2nd half, Paul Pierce scored 7-points, including a four-point play. The Celtics went on to score 10-points in the first two minutes of the 3rd quarter, charging back into the game to take the lead at 56-53 before Radmanovic hit a corner three to tie it. And then what Celtic fans had never wanted to see happen happened. Paul Pierce went down, spraining his knee; an injury that left him wailing in pain on the floor forcing him to be carried to a wheel chair and into the locker room. And immediately following his exit, Kendrick Perkins went down with a sprained ankle, also being led to the locker room. Less than two-minutes later in the 3rd quarter, after a Ray Allen three-pointer that seemed to eleviate any signs of anxiety in the Celtics and their fans, Paul Pierce came hopping out of the locker room to meet a emphatic and thundering ovation from the Beantown fans.
And as if the crowd was used as his fuel, Paul Pierce went on to hit consecutive three-pointers after coming back, leading his Celtics on a 28-16 run since his injury and him finishing the third with 15-points, 18 total. From then on, it was all Celtics. The defense cranked up, as Ray Allen and the rest of the Celtics team nailed down Kobe Bryant, holding him to only two-points in the fourth quarter. The Celtics closed out the game on the line making it 98-88, the largest lead the game had seen.
Keys to Game 1
Kobe Bryant: 24-points. Only two in the fourth quarter.
Laker Bench: 15-points. Eight under playoff average.
Rebounding: 46 for Boston, 33 for Los Angeles.
Big 3: Combined 65 points.
Kevin Garnett: 24-points. Only four inside the paint.
Looking Ahead to Game 2
In Game 1, the Lakers showed how deep they are during a number of points of the game. Sadly for them, they werent able to sustain that much less stretch that throughout their entire roster. Derek Fisher was huge with 15-points, and even Sasha Vujacic and Ronny Turiaf had moments of great contributions, but overall the Lakers supporting cast (anyone but Odom, Bryant, Gasol) didnt step up like they'd been doing so far this post season. The Lakers must get more out of the bench because that is virtually what has propelled them to the Finals. Gasol, Odom and Bryant will get their points, it's up to the rest to do what they've been doing in support. And speaking of Kobe, he's gotta show up in the 4th quarter. Only two-points in the most critical time of the game isnt gonna cut it, and he knows that. If he wants to establish his own legacy, apart from "The Diesel" and even Michael Jordan, he's going to have to do more during crunch time.
For the Celtics, get KG on the block. Gasol, someone that Garnett gave credit as one of the League's most underrated players and defenders prior to the series, did a phenomenal job in keeping Garnett in front of him and away from the post the entire night. As was pointed out, Garnett only had two or three shot attempts within the paint, two of them being slam dunks. Garnett was forced to take jump shots, now while he may have hit them in the first half, he struggled (as I expected) in the 2nd. It will be a must for him to establish himself in Game 2 and beyond inside the paint, not out.
Game 2 will be played at 8:30 PM ET in Boston on Sunday night.