LOS ANGELES — Kobe Bryant has yet to relinquish a smile. And after Thursday’s game, neither did the Celtics.
Marred by foul trouble, a lack of rhythm and the tag-team duo of Bryant and Pau Gasol, the Celtics lost the first game of the 2010 NBA Finals, 102-89.
Bryant racked up 30 points on 10-of-22 shooting, with no shot more poignant than a last-second 3-pointer with 5 seconds left to end the game. Between his scoring punch, Gasol’s steady presence (23 points, 14 rebounds) in the paint, and 28 team fouls — spread among key starters and reserves — the Celtics failed to keep up with the Western Conference Champions.
Gasol, in particular, had a beefed up performance against a Celtics team that had scarred his image in the 2008 Finals.
“He was more aggressive,” said Doc Rivers of Gasol’s game compared to 2008. “He attacked us. I thought he was the best player on the floor. I thought he made terrific plays, terrific passes, shot when he should shoot. Yeah, he’s better. He’s far more aggressive.
“If you heard for two years what you couldn’t do, you’re probably going to come in and try to prove that, and I thought Gasol proved a lot tonight.”
With a poor third quarter defensively (the Lakers scored 34 points), the Celtics fell behind as much as 20 points before Paul Pierce brought the team back.
Pierce led the Celtics with 24 points and nine rebounds. But he was harassed much of the game by Ron Artest, who set the tone early in a scuffle between the two. Each were assessed a double technical, beginning a first quarter filled with 18 fouls — nine by each team. By the end of the game, there were 54 fouls between them.
“Ron is a great defender,” Pierce said. “I have a lot of respect for him. “You’ve got to expect him to be physical. He’s going to work hard. He’s their defensive leader.”
Knocking down 13 points, including 7-of-7 free throws, Pierce’s production was the only offensive juice for a Celtics team that had become known for spreading the ball around. Rajon Rondo, who had scored 10 points in the first half, finished with 13 on the evening. Kevin Garnett chipped in 16.
“They did a good job of collapsing when I did get a chance to get inside the paint,” Rondo said. “They’re very long, Gasol and (Andrew) Bynum. (Derek Fisher) is very clever … They did a great job mixing it up. I’ve got to sometimes attack, make the refs call the call, and other times just get it out to our shooters.”
4th quarter, 1:40, Lakers 99, Celtics 84: Ron Artest just buried a three and Kevin Garnett followed with a jumper. Lakers fans have devolved into a “We Want Tacos” chant, as part of some promotion.
4th quarter, 4:32, Lakers 93, Celtics 80: Paul Pierce picked up his fifth foul.
4th quarter, 5:17, Lakers 93, Celtics 78: Kevin Garnett missed a couple of opportunities under the basket and Ron Artest was there pressuring him and then cleaning up on the glass afterward. Artest has been an x-factor of sorts in this game, as was expected with his defensive presence. Although he’s been good offensively for the Lakers as well. He’s got 12 points and four rebounds.
4th quarter, 6:20, Lakers 91, Celtics 76: Glen Davis found himself tangled up with Ron Artest and while the two seemed to be intimately involved in tossing elbows, Pau Gasol was racing down court for a quick Lakers basket on a Celtics turnover. Gasol has 23 points and 11 rebounds.
4th quarter, 8:28, Lakers 85, Celtics 72: Paul Pierce just put up an awesome defensive stand against Kobe Bryant. Kevin Garnett returned with a quick jumper and the Celtics are now down by 13 again, chipping away at the Lakers’ lead with quick baskets and defensive stops.
End of the third quarter, Lakers 84, Celtics 64: What once was a game within reach, has now ballooned to a 20-point lead, spurred by Kobe Bryant’s 14 points in the quarter.
3rd quarter, :46, Lakers 79, Celtics 64: Rasheed Wallace picked up a technical. Apparently, he doesn’t like how things are going.
3rd quarter, 1:39, Lakers 75, Celtics 62: After just coming back in the game due to foul trouble, Ray Allen picked up his fifth foul of the game while guarding Kobe Bryant, getting banishing him probably till late in the fourth quarter.
3rd quarter, 2:10, Lakers 75, Celtics 62: The lead is back up to 13 for the Lakers after a Kobe Bryant alley-hoop. Bryant now has 24 points. Pau Gasol has 17 points to go along with 10 rebounds.
3rd quarter, 3:13, Lakers 71, Celtics 62: Tony Allen just dunked all over a couple of Lakers. He took a nice pass on the baseline from Rajon Rondo.
3rd quarter, 5:30, Lakers 65, Celtics 56: There’s that Kevin Garnett jumper we’ve been missing. Garnett hit a 15-footer from the left elbow coming out of the Celtics timeout. Kendrick Perkins followed up with a layup. This has the making of one of those famous Celtics runs.
3rd quarter, 6:10, Lakers 65, Celtics 52: Kobe Bryant just scored his 20th point on a fast break dunk. The Lakers have pushed the lead to 13 and Doc Rivers called a timeout to talk it over. The difference so far between the two teams have been on the defensive end. The Lakers have been able to get stops and surprisingly the Celtics have not.
3rd quarter, 6:41, Lakers 61, Celtics 50: Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol are having essentially a two-man game at this point. The two are scoring buckets and feeding off of each other. The Celtics knew this was coming. Bryant now has 18. Gasol has 13.
3rd quarter, 9:04, Lakers 57, Celtics 47: Ray Allen picked up his fourth foul at the 9:04 mark. He’s replaced by Tony Allen, again the first off the bench. Tony Allen also has three fouls in the game.
3rd quarter, 10:12, Lakers 55, Celtics 45: The Celtics are really utilizing Ray Allen off of screens in the third quarter so far. He and Rajon Rondo are doing a good job of creating opportunities for themselves and their teammates.
End of second quarter, Lakers 50, Celtics 41: Rajon Rondo just hit a big shot to end the second quarter for the Celtics, but it appears it is the Lakers who are going into the half with momentum, going on a 13-6 run in the last few moments to push their two-point lead to nine.
Rondo leads the Celtics with 10 points and Paul Pierce has nine. The Lakers have outrebounded the Celtics 23-15 and have doled out more fouls than their Lake Show rivals, 15-13. The Lakers had 28 points in the paint, the Celtics had 12. These aren’t good signs.
Meanwhile, Kobe Bryant has 12 points through the half while Pau Gasol has 11 to pace the Lakers.
2nd quarter, :56, Lakers 48, Celtics 37: Derek Fisher just scored on a little stop and pop, Kobe Bryant is slicing through the Celtics’ defense, Ron Artest hit a 3-pointer and scored on a fast break — all while Ray Allen picked up his third foul, sending back in Tony Allen (three fouls) as the Lakers start to pull ahead before the end of the half.
2nd quarter, 4:46, Lakers 37, Celtics 35: Kevin Garnett got his first field goal of the game, hitting a fadeaway in front of Pau Gasol, whom he terrorized in the ’08 series. Ray Allen got a nice jumper off a couple screens. The Celtics appear to be finding rhythm.
2nd quarter, 6:32, Lakers 35, Celtics 31: Nate Robinson doing a jump ball against Pau Gasol is humorous. But it’s not so funny watching Kobe Bryant drill a long two right afterward.
Also, the fouls have now become a significant part of the game. Each team has 12.
2nd quarter, 8:43, Lakers 30, Celtics 26: Doc Rivers harped on rebounding during the week and I’m pretty sure if he was looking at the stats right now he’d be upset. The Lakers have 10 offensive rebounds and the Celtics have 2. Both by Rajon Rondo. They’ve been outrebounded so far 16-10. Yet, they’re only down by four.
2nd quarter, 9:40, Lakers 28, Celtics 26: Rasheed Wallace is heating up. Got a nice couple of buckets going in the game already, including a 3-pointer in Pau Gasol’s face.
End of first quarter, Lakers 26, Celtics 21: Two quick buckets by Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown pushed the Lakers lead at the end of the quarter to 26-21. Farmar followed up with a sneaky steal on the inbound pass to give L.A. a chance to extend its lead to eight, with Lamar Odom missing the layup.
The quarter was marred by foul trouble between the two teams. Each team has nine fouls. Paul Pierce dropped nine points and Rajon Rondo had a quick six points in the quarter.
1st quarter, 1:35, Lakers 20, Celtics 18: Tony Allen is having a rough night. He just got his third personal foul on an offensive charge. He also threw a pretty bad pass to Paul Pierce that resulted in a turnover. Even still, the Celtics only down two.
1st quarter, 2:50, Lakers 18, Celtics 16: Kevin Garnett is uncharacteristically struggling with his shot. He was 0-for-3 from the field before getting subbed out. Ron Artest is now in somewhat foul trouble, getting his second at the 3:24 mark in the quarter. The Lakers have seven fouls already.
1st quarter, 4:30, Lakers 16, Celtics 13: Paul Pierce came out of that timeout looking to get going, hitting a tough shot over Ron Artest. The Celtics are showing good interior passing, setting up Kendrick Perkins for a layup or a dunk before he was fouled.
1st quarter, 6:17, Lakers 16, Celtics 10: That usual 15-footer for Kevin Garnett is not dropping. With another Kobe Bryant basket in the lane, the Celtics take a timeout to talk it over.
1st quarter, 6:32, Lakers 12, Celtics 8: Ray Allen picked up his second personal foul, bringing in Tony Allen. Not like Ray Allen to pick up so many fouls. But he is, from the onset, tasked with guarding Kobe Bryant.
1st quarter, 9:00, Lakers 8, Celtics 4: Ron Artest is making his mark on this game. He’s forced a turnover on Pierce and has got his first field goal of the game already. And Andrew Bynum is also getting involved in the action, with a little dunk beneath the Celtics’ defense.
1st quarter, 11:33, Celtics 2, Lakers 0: Already Paul Pierce and Ron Artest have gotten into it. Looks like Pierce just tried to wrestle Artest to the floor. A double technical was called on Pierce and Artest. Doc Rivers hates those.
Pregame: Getting started here at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. All the talk is said and done. Only missing Marquis Daniels (concussion) tonight.