One game in and one thing is clear; the Lakers of 2010 are nothing like the Lakers of 2008. If the Celtics expected to rough up the Lakers in this series, they were given a huge shock last night as LA came out and pushed around the “tougher” Celtics all night long. The Lakers dominated the paint inside, and took a 20-point lead into the fourth that they would never relinquish as they notched a 102-89 win over the Celtics to jump out to a 1-0 series lead.
The Lakers won this game by dominating the Celtics in the paint, outrebounding Boston 42-31, and scoring 48 points in the paint while taking the ball inside as often as possible. The Lakers also outscored the Celtics 16-0 on second chance points, showing more aggression and hunger going after loose balls and rebounds.
Game MVP: Kobe Bryant
Bryant came out and set the tone for the Lakers from the opening tip. While focusing on attacking the paint early and not settling for jumpers, Bryant was able to show his teammates the way to winning was by going inside early and often. Kobe also came out from the beginning and matched up with Celtics guard Rajon Rondo defensively, and limiting Rondo directly lead to the Celtics offense never really getting into a rhythm. Bryant ended with 30 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists in the win.
Honorable Mention: Pau Gasol
The one player who was hammered the most as “soft” after that ’08 loss, Gasol came out aggressively and was by far the most physical player all game. The Spaniard finished with 23 points, 14 rebounds, and 3 blocks in a dominant effort in which he was also able to control Kevin Garnett on the defensive end while exploiting him on the offensive end.
Game LVP: Ray Allen
Allen was expected to benefit the most from the fact that Kobe was switching onto Rondo because that left him matched up against Derek Fisher. However, Allen was not able to contain Kobe at all, as Bryant consistently took it at him and caused Allen to pick up five fouls by the end of the third quarter. Allen finished with just 12 points on 3-for-8 shooting, closing out the game without a three-point basket, rebound, or assist.
Keys to Game 2:
For the Celtics, they must come out and play an aggressive, physical game, and try to punch the Lakers in the mouth. The Lakers were basically able to score at will in the paint, and Boston must step it up inside. Defense has been the key to the Celtics winning this postseason, as they are 11-0 when holding opponents under 95 but now find themselves just 1-6 when giving up more than that. If Boston hopes to steal a game in LA, they must play better defense and attack the Lakers bigs more often instead of settling for jumpers.
For the Lakers, they must continue to be the team playing like they want it more. Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, and Andrew Bynum are the keys to this series because if they are able to dominate inside, the Lakers will win the series. If they get pushed around and outrebounded, then the Celtics have a great chance to take the title. Kobe Bryant did a masterful job of controlling the Lakers offense and not letting them get out of sync, and if he is able to move the ball well out of double-teams, it will lead to easy shots for Laker bigs. In a Lakers’ dream scenario, this would also force the Celtics to stop doubling him and allow him to go one-on-one against a group of defenders that can’t stay in front of him.
Belal Abdelfattah is BSO’s newest writer and comes from a long background in sports writing at the Sports Authority Blog and The Block Radio. You can follow Belal on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/belal_a