Morning sports update: Paul Pierce believes the Celtics have a psychological advantage over the Lakers

"I think the Celtics have the best starting five in the NBA."

Paul Pierce before a TV broadcast in 2018.
Paul Pierce before a TV broadcast in 2018. –photo by Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff)

On Monday, a memorial was held for Kobe and Gianna Bryant at the Staples Center. Numerous NBA greats, past and present, were on hand along with thousands of fans. Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, offered a moving eulogy of her late husband.

Other speakers included Shaquille O’Neal and Michael Jordan, who provided moments of humor even amid visible emotion:

Today, both the Bruins and Celtics are back in action. The Bruins are at TD Garden to face the Flames at 7 p.m. The Celtics are in Portland to play the Trail Blazers at 10 p.m.

Elsewhere on Monday, Liverpool rallied from a surprising 2-1 deficit in the second half of a Premier League game against West Ham to win, 3-2.

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Paul Pierce weighed in on the current state of Celtics-Lakers: As a prominent member of the last Celtics team to play the Lakers in an NBA Finals, Paul Pierce has a unique perspective on the rivalry.

Following the Celtics’ close 114-112 loss to the Lakers on Sunday, Pierce gave some perspective on the psychological balance in the current matchup during an appearance on ESPN’s “First Take.” In particular, Pierce believes the absence of Celtics star Kemba Walker could help Boston keep its edge even after the loss to Los Angeles.

“How do you feel when you beat somebody not at their best?” asked Pierce. “Do you really feel good about that? Do you feel like that’s a good win?”

Asked to speculate about a possible finals matchup, Pierce gave a nod to his former team.

“If these two meet in the Finals full strength, Celtics have the advantage psychologically after what we’ve just seen these last two games,” Pierce explained. “I think the Celtics have the best starting five in the NBA.”

Added to that was ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith, seated alongside Pierce, taking a moment to reexamine the results of the 2017 NBA draft, when the Lakers chose guard Lonzo Ball over All-Star forward Jayson Tatum.

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“I’m sorry to be a spoiler for Laker fans out here, but this is the guy that you passed up on to draft Lonzo Ball,” added Smith. “How does that feel?”

Here’s the full segment:

Trivia: The first Celtics-Lakers NBA finals matchup occurred in 1962. The Celtics won in seven games, with four players each eclipsing 150 points over the course of the series. Name those four players.

(Answer at the bottom).

Hint: Two were Celtics, two were Lakers. None of the four played college basketball for Holy Cross. Also, Wilt Chamberlain was not on the Lakers until 1968.

More from Boston.com:

Kevin Faulk reportedly has a new coaching job with LSU:

And speaking of LSU, presumptive No. 1 pick Joe Burrow knew how to deal with pre-draft obsession over metrics:

Sabrina Ionescu’s dedicated her performance to Kobe Bryant: On the same day that she spoke at Kobe Bryant’s memorial, Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu became the first college basketball player to post 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists in her career:

Astros second baseman Jose Altuve was greeted with some cheers but many boos during his first spring training at bat:

On this day: In 1933, Thomas Yawkey completed his purchase of the Red Sox. Yawkey would go on to pour his fortune into the team, salvaging a dilapidated Fenway Park and rebuilding a roster that had deteriorated for 15 years.

Yet his legacy will forever be tainted by his resistance to integration in baseball, as the Red Sox were the last team to do so despite notable opportunities to sign players like Willie Mays.

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Yawkey’s tenure as sole owner of the Red Sox was nonetheless long, spanning a record 44 seasons. In that time, Boston went to three World Series, but lost them all in seven games.

Daily highlight: Trent Frazier of Illinois men’s basketball nailed the halftime buzzer-beater.

Trivia answer: Bill Russell, Sam Jones, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West

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