Friday, June 6, 2008

Celtics strike first

The LA Lakers versus the Boston Celtics is one of basketball's greatest rivalries. The last week has been all about stories and memories of past battles.
Wilt V Bill, Larry V Magic, Showtime V Beantown.
All those great moments and highlights that we've been force fed on the tv are still fun to watch, but we always knew what the end result was. It was time to add some new material.
The 2008 version of the Boston Celtics drew first blood in the NBA Finals last night as they overcome a slow start and a half time deficit to take game 1 of the best-of-seven series versus the LA Lakers, 98-88.
Poor shooting from Lakers star Kobe Bryant combined with an emotional capacity crowd at the TD Banknorth Garden lifted the Celtics to the win.
Paul Pierce must have felt that there hadn't been enough flash backs this week as he did his best to emulate New York Knicks' great, Willis Reed's famous injury comeback of the 1970 NBA Finals.
Near the half way mark of the third period, Celtics center, Kendrick Perkins clattered into Pierce sending the Celtics captain to the floor, clutching his knee. A collective gasp from the crowd followed as Pierce was helped from the court and taken straight in to the locker room.
Later, Pierce would say that he felt a pop and that his season had ended right then and there. However, what was feared to be a season ending injury, instead turned into the quickest recovery in NBA Finals history as Peirce returned less than two minutes later.
His return was not quite as spectacular as Reed's but the Lakers certainly felt the impact nonethless. Pierce hit two 3-pointers within 22 seconds of each other which pushed Boston's lead to four points and it was all the proof the noisy crowd needed to see that he was feeling fine.
Boston's big three of Pierce, Kevin Garnett & Ray Allen erupted into the nightmare for the Lakers that Celtics GM Danny Ainge envisioned when he added Garnett and Allen during last summer, as they combined for 65 points.
Things haven't always gone as smoothly as planned for the Celtics during this years playoffs, but last night all that was forgotten.
The Lakers started the game well and apart from Bryant, shot the ball at a high percentage in the first half and led 51-46 at the long break.
Boston's defense was the league's best this year, but Bryant's early shooting woes were more a result of unfriendly rims than a particularly tight defence. “I had some good looks, they just didn’t go down for me, I just missed some bunnies. I’ll be thinking about those a little bit.” said Bryant after the game.
In the past, Kobe might have felt a need to take more shots to start scoring, but instead now, he prefers to defer to his team mates to try to get them going. Bryant got some support from Pau Gasol and Derek Fisher - each 15 points and Lamar Odom, 14 points, but LA's bench provided only 15 more points and were largely ineffective.
Game two of the series goes Sunday again in Boston where the Lakers look to square things up before heading back to Staples Center.

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