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Friday, June 6th, 2008 at 9:30 am  |  79 responses

The NBA Finals: Game 1 Notes and Pain

Paul Pierce Gets His Willis Reed On…

by Marcel Mutoni

-Prior to the game, ABC ran a Finals-Edition of Jimmy Kimmel Live! Kimmel’s show – which, if you can look past the nepotism, can at times be entertaining – kicked off with an old bit where Jimmy and Shaq play a game of H-O-R-S-E. I only mention this because a large SLAM poster was plastered on one of the walls, and could be seen throughout the entire segment. Pretty cool.

First Half:

-What in the hell happened to Mike Breen’s face? As he ushered in the NBA Finals and ABC’s coverage of the monumental matchup, Breen was sporting a small band-aid just above his left eye.

(I can only guess that he got between Glen “Big Baby” Davis and a biscuit, and well, that simply couldn’t have ended well.)

-Good thing Kobe’s teammates are actually good at basketball now, because he came out shooting blanks. His first three shots were tough misses, all contested, and taken nowhere near the rim.

(You could say that Boston watched a lot of tape of the Spurs/Lakers series – where San Antonio did everything to keep Bryant out of the paint, and away from the free throw line – they had just better hope he doesn’t catch fire from the perimeter like he did in the previous round.

One guy who wasn’t missing from the outside early on was Kevin Garnett. Matter of fact, KG wasn’t missing from anywhere and scored a quick eight points to begin the festivities, and led all scorers in the first half with sixteen points. So much for his reputation as a guy who passes up shots…

-I don’t know how they did it, but the Celtics somehow dusted off Sam Cassell’s rotting corpse and brought him back to life. Sam I Am taught Derek Fisher a lesson in the art of making the turnaround jumper, made all the more remarkable not only by the fact that Sam is ancient, but that he barely gets any lifts on his shot.

(After Phil Jackson had seen enough of Sam’s jumpers tickle the net, he stuck Kobe on him, which quickly put an end to the nonsense.)

-Paul Pierce, due to foul trouble, was a complete non-factor in the first half. Ray Allen showed flashes in the opening quarter, but didn’t do anything particularly memorable.

-The highlight of the first half wasn’t a monster block, lightning-quick steal, or a spectacular basket. Nope, it was a beautiful pass from Kobe to Gasol with a about a minute and a half to go, in which Bryant passed up a laughably open baseline three and found a cutting Pau, resulting in a trip to the line for the Spaniard. There’s no way in hell he would’ve made a similar play at any point in the previous three seasons.

(The Lakers – bolstered by the Bryantaires – were able to take the air out of the Celtics and their rabid fans. The crowd had to be feeling extra anxious going into the second half with their team down by five, and Kobe not having begun to look for his offense.)

-The lowlight of the game, and perhaps of the season, was the debut of the split-screen NBA promo featuring the worn and leathery faces of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Thanks for the night terrors, fellas. ‘Preciate it.

Second Half:

-Welcome to the NBA Finals, Paul Pierce! The Truth quickly made up for his atrocious first half by canning three consecutive shots to open things in the third quarter – one of which was a surreal four-point play. Paul’s explosion gave the lead back to Boston, and made me nearly punch a wall in my apartment.

-You know, this Kobe Bryant guy isn’t too bad of a passer. With about eight minutes remaining in the quarter, Bean twirled through a double team and found a leaping Gasol at the rim for an easy finish.

(Moments later, everyone in the state of Massachusetts has a collective heart attack after Kobe knocks in a tough runner. It wasn’t the basket that quieted the arena; instead, it was Pierce crumbling to the floor and clutching his right knee. He was carried off the floor, and put in a wheelchair. Not a good look.)

-As Pierce’s dramatic entrance back into the game was rudely interrupted by a Phil Jackson timeout, he was greeted by Eddie House’s kid as he made his way back to the bench.

(I don’t mean to be cruel, but the first thought that came to my mind when I saw Eddie’s offspring on the Celtics’ bench was that of Dusty Baker’s son nearly getting trampled at home plate during a World Series game a few years ago. I suggest you find that kid a seat in the crowd before something terrible happens, Eddie.)

-I mean, how discouraging to a defender must it be after having played flawless defense, forced the shot clock down to its final second, and making your opponent shoot an impossible-to-make shot as he falls into the bench … and he still wets it. Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce you to the life of one Ray Allen as he attempts to stick with Kobe Bryant.

-Pierce and his knee must be feeling awfully good, because he knocks in a couple of three balls on consecutive possessions. This inspires the crowd to begin the “Beat LA” chant, something that hadn’t been heard since the pre-game ceremonies.

-Heading into the fourth, buoyed by the emotional play of their captain, the C’s hold a four-point lead and have the crowd on their feet. Ugh.

-Three minutes into the fourth quarter, the Celtics run one of Doc Rivers’s brilliant plays: Ray Allen carries the ball twice in the same possession, and throws it away after finding his way into the lane. Thankfully, KG’s hustle is available to rescue the possession, resulting in an open jumper for the Artist Formely known as Sam Cassell.

(Moments later, James Posey cans a three, giving Boston its biggest lead of the night. Phil’s Zen then tells him to sit Kobe in this moment of crisis. I then begin the search for a window to jump out of.)

-Of course, Phil’s celebrated Bench Mob proves him to be wise by cutting into the Celtics’ lead (and me to be an idiot for not remembering what has been a season-long constant for this Lakers team.)

-Out of the timeout, Bryant rejoins the fray and promptly bricks a tough jumper with the shot clock running down. Not a great night offensively for the Mamba, so far.

-Who does Sasha Vujacic think he is, Kobe? He takes an unfathomable fadeaway that no one expected – least of all, his own teammates – and following the miss, Odom hacks Pierce in their battle for the rebound. Pierce then goes to the line, and pushes the Boston lead to eight with less than four minutes to go.

-I’ve seen the Triangle Offense, I’ve enjoyed the Triangle Offense, and this, my friends, is NOT the Triangle Offense. Bryant is getting isolated on an island and taking ridiculously tough fallaways with arms all up in his face – resulting in an ugly 9/25 from the field so far – while four other Lakers stand around the perimeter looking dumbfounded. Did Rudy Tomjanovich secretly enter the body of Phil Jackson at halftime? I’m ready to believe anything at this point.

-Both teams trade misses and turnovers as the game creeps into crunch time. One of those misses includes a biggie from Pau Gasol, as he bricks a free throw that could’ve cut the lead down to four with 2 minutes remaining.

-KG nearly blows the roof off the sucker by powering home a missed three with a minute and a half to go. On the next Boston possession, he dances his way to the rim and is fouled by D-Fish. He will not let L.A. make this game any closer than it needs to be for the C’s. That’s called taking over, kids.

-After a couple of long-distance misses from the Lakers, the final minute is nothing more than a formality, with the Celtics parading to the free throw line and putting the finishing touches on a series-opening ten point win.

-Aside from The Big Three playing up to their moniker, the Lakers lost Game One for three reasons: 1)Kobe had a terrible shooting night (prepare yourselves for two days of effusive praise for James Posey’s defense, which he deserves); 2)their vaunted bench wasn’t exactly vaunted; 3)and they got dominated on the boards.

-Add up all of the above, and you have the Lakers staring down a practically must-win situation in Game Two.

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  • http://www.mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Myles Brown

    Willis Reed was actually injured.

  • http://www.slamonline.com James The Balla

    im saddened by last night

  • http://www.garrettelliott.com Garrett

    Is there anyone in the world who can legitimately claim to be a fan of Paul Pierce? The only thing more unlikeable than his personality is his game. It’s just so ugly, yet he gets it done. I’ll never be able to figure it out. Mark Jackson, however, can stop comparing Paul Pierce to Willis Reed. Seriously.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    Pretty good notes, Mr. Mutoni. Regarding your three points 1)Kobe will be better. Of course. 2) The bench coming back strong is iffy. They really need to contribute big, not just decently. If Posey, PJ and Sam play that same way for most of the rest of the series, the Celts bench is in good shape, too and 3)The rebounding edge will not change. This is not the Lakers strong suit and where they miss Bynum the most. Gasol got worked by KG (as expected) and all of Gasol’s “magical” pick and roll baskets came with KG on the bench, I believe. All three games this season, the Lakers have been crushed on the boards. That’s not a good omen for the rest of the series.

  • Silky Slim

    Marcel, I thought the same thing about The Truth. That was a Willis Reed situation. I think ABC is trying too hard to incorporate the legacy of the Celtics-Lakers rivalry with the finals. The Magic/Bird commercial is overkill. ABC is force feeding this to the viewers.

  • Rasheedionics

    I don’t think the next game is must win for Lakers. Even if they lose game 2, they go back home for 3 games which is not a bad situation to be in. I think there’s as much if not more pressure on Celtics win game 2.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    Garrett, I legitimately claim to a fan of Paul Pierce. I find his ugly effectiveness appealing. I think Russ likes him as well. So that’s two.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    Also: MVP

  • Silky Slim

    Although KG was more agressive, he still attempted way too many perimeter jumpers. KG, get your butt down on the block and stay there! J. Shuttlesworth is back. The Truth did his thing. Rondo was really agressive. The Celtics bench played well (James Posey, Leon Powe, Sam Cassell). P.J. Brown was impressive!

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    Silky Slim, glad you were able to perceive the force feeding last night. It’s only been planned for weeks by the NBA and ABC.

  • http://www.garrettelliott.com Garrett

    Ryan Jones: You don’t count. Maybe Russ counts, though.

  • Silky Slim

    Mamba missed a lot of jumpers. The Celtics did a good job of defending Mamba. Gasol and Odom were sporadic. Fisher was solid, though he should’ve been more agressive. Vladimir and Sasha made a few buckets, but it seemed they could not find their rhythm. The Lakeshow got nothing from the bench.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    Silly me, a former Slam editor in chief put in my place by a Canadian wedding photographer. Ouch!

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    Jones is good.

  • http://www.heavyasheaven.blogspot.com DP

    six more games. Lakers need to punch the C’s in the gut next game, however.

  • marcgar

    theres not alot of people commenting in here today. i’m suprised after the great game last night. oh wait….. thats right everyone usually on here are laker fans. hey b.long is on here. he can take any comments people give. mad props b.long

  • Drew

    I probably don’t count, but I like Pierce. His game is gritty, and I actually like his personality a lot more than Kobe’s.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    1. I’ve been a big Paul Pierce fan ever since he got drafted. He’s got that so-ugly-it’s-beautiful game, kind of like Jeff Hornacek. 2. Watched some of the Jimmy Kimmel crap because I switched over early. The spelling bee skit made me not want to see him ever again. Not just his show, him. That was one of the worst things I’ve ever seen on TV, and I watched every episode of “The Magic Hour.” Erin Andrews should be ashamed of herself. 3. Eddie House’s kid is the new T.J. Kidd. Fantastic. 4. The Lakers are gonna take Game Two. Unless they don’t. When is it, in like three weeks?

  • jp

    boston steamers

  • Michael

    I am also a Paul Pierce fan, although I am sure I wouldn’t count wither

  • Michael

    *either

  • http://www.youtube.com/dunkadelictv Dunkadelic MC

    While I was enjoying the game last night I made a new burger recipe found on http://www.chow.com/recipes/12020. The Dunkadelic-Double Cheeseburger was fantastic. It was better than a LeBron James slam dunk.

  • http://www.garrettelliott.com Garrett

    Zing! Ryan Jones, Editor In Chief of SLAM 1, Canadian Wedding Photographer 0.

  • http://nothinpersonal8.blogspot.com/ nothin personal

    The fact thta your stint as Ed. was the shortest in SLAM history, should say something about the weight your oppinion carries, Jones!

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    Just trying to send business your way.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    Fair point. I am undoubtedly one of the five worst Ed.s in Slam history.

  • http://nothinpersonal8.blogspot.com/ nothin personal

    You might even be fourth in the rankings, and you are definitely third best after the millennium.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    And his son is still cuter than him.

  • Froggiestyle

    Am I the only one who thought that was a crappy game overall (mainly a dramaless 4th Q) – must be both teams too amped up. It felt like the team who didn’t miss the most shots won. Hopefully they’ll settle down and play better next game. PS. smells like C’s got LA’s number.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    Thanks buddy. Looks like you’re due for a blog update?

  • B. Long

    So Andrew, exactly how bad does your knee hurt when you try to run on it? Cause if Pau continues to block out like a 10yr. old girl we’re gonna need your one legged ass to grab some boards. Thanks.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    I guess I can write something about Penn State’s recruiting class…

  • AP

    Rudy T was a great coach and player…..

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    I was actually talking to the other guy, Tad — his most recent post is late-breaking news about the 2007 draft. But feel free to opine. We’re kicking ass in Maryland.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    I still think Oden will win ROY.

  • B. Long

    @Tad: What about Kevin Love? lmao

  • http://nothinpersonal8.blogspot.com/ nothin personal

    My next blog is a Guide on how to draft a Euro. I hope i write that one, you know, before the GM’s gather in NY and actually do the draft. I am 3 exams away from getting my degree, it’s been a hectic year. There was that dude, a professor named Jones that kept failing my papers… What an ***!

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    I would’ve loved the chance.

  • vmcb

    A friend of mine called the Magic/Bird ads while we were still in the conference finals. And say what you want about Paul Piere and his “injury”, I thought his return to the court was AMAZING.

  • vmcb

    *Pierce, sorry.

  • Michael

    When is it time to start calling Kobe one of the worst BIG game players ever. Aside from that 4th and overtime of game 4 in 2000 he’s played absolutely horrible in the NBa finals throughout his career. The moment he sees good defense he falls apart.

  • B. Long

    Michael: Have you ever seen him play in the Finals, besides 2004?

  • Michael

    B. Long: He sot 42% against Phiily, aside from game 4 he was basically a non-facto against the pacers. He had good numbers agaisnt the nets but he still shot just 44%, plus it was the Nets. Look, Kobe is my favorite player ever, but i think it’s a little disturbing that a guy whos supposed to be one of the all time greats is so easy to gaurd. All of the other greats; Michael, Jerry, Magic, Elgin etc. played the best on the biggest stage while Kobe digress big time.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    Um, he’s played all of ONE game in the 2008 Finals. Wanna wait on that epitaph maybe?

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    This Michael guy is wild. And accurate.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    True about this years series though but he has accurate points about the others, Russ.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    Michael, I don’t know if Kobe digress’ big time in the Finals (he has averaged 23 pts per game) plus he shared the scoring load with Shaq in their three peat run, but during this this season’s playoff run, he hasn’t faced an entire TEAM d that plays as well as the Celtics do, so I think his chances of more than one “get off” game in this series is going to be really difficult. Plus if he does go that “it’s me against all of ya’ll” route, that’s exactly what the Celts would want and will end this series much sooner than later if he goes there for more than one game. He’ll be fine once they get home and he’ll average big numbers there. His MVP status would be well defined if he can lead a steal of Game 2, though.

  • http://www.ravingblacklunatic.blogspot.com Allenp

    He averaged like 22 or 23 against the Pistons. If shooting percentage determines whether you showed up, than Iverson never shows up. Except that he does. Kobe has a tendency to shoot jumpers, but to say he doesn’t show up is going to far. Have we forgotten that three pointer over Richard Hamilton against the Pistons?

  • B. Long

    Kobe got his feel for what the Celts are doing defensively and will come out deadly in Game 2. He also made some great passes and got some good looks in Game 1 the shots just didn’t fall. The loss had nothing to do with his style of play and more to do with an off night shooting. Even God has his misses, just look at Rico. But has Kobe ever had 2 off nights in a row.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    Allen, you’re talking about 1 game? 1 shot? In a series the Lakers got destroyed in? You’re so much better than that.

    B, do you run a Physic Friends hotline on the side, because you sure seem to know what’s going to happen from game to game? But like Dionne Warwick and Miss Cleo, your results are kind of mysterious.

  • http://www.mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Myles Brown

    …..

  • B. Long

    @Eboy: It’s more of an educated guess line. And yes I use a phony Jamacian accent too.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    LOL @ educated guess line. And I can only assume Myles is preparing searing comments for the post Game 2 discussion once the Lakers knot the series.

  • jdubbs

    I think the Celts showed why they were my favorites going into the series. The matchups are all in their favor. BUT if Pierce ends up a shell of his former self, like Agent Zero did in the first round, due to a bum knee, the C’s are done like a dog’s dinner.

  • http://joeloholic.wordpress.com Joel O’s

    If I remember right, Jalen Rose was abusing a young Kobe in the 2000 finals. But he’s come a long way since.

  • http://joeloholic.wordpress.com Joel O’s

    Turiaf’s gotta play more; they should start him or at least play him a lot more if they wanna not lose out so much on rebounds. Boston’s clumsy/hulking front line is killing them down low. Vlad Rad has no place being on a Finals team starting lineup at all.

  • tealish

    I think Vegas actually has the Lakers as the favourites, which I can’t argue.

  • B. Long

    @Joel O’s: I agree that Vlad starting is tragic and I would probably rather have Luke Walton’s passing ability in the starting 5 than Vlad’s streaky wide open three point shooting. That’s why I’m excited about Bynum coming back next year. Vlad free starting five. Yea!

  • tealish

    And @ Michael: That’s a fair point about Kobe, but keep in mind how old he was in his previous Finals stints. It’s actually amazing to fathom.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    Someone please tell me how Kobe is “so easy” to guard. I’m curious. Maybe pass that info to George Karl, too.

  • http://joeloholic.wordpress.com Joel O’s

    @B.Long: Last night there was a play where Vlad had a half-hearted bump foul on PP, who then banked it in from 3… which was horrendously infuriating. Why isn’t Phil Jackson playing Walton more? He hits open jumpers just as well, and is way better than Vlad at everything else, especially defense. Radmanovic on Pierce is the most laughable mismatch all postseason.

  • tealish

    I don’t think anyone would say that, Russ…

  • tealish

    Oh Michael did, but people can get carried away. Look, he prefaced his comment with “I’m Kobe’s biggest fan”. At least we know he’s not a hater, right?

  • http://joeloholic.wordpress.com Joel O’s

    I think Ray and PP did a great job on Kobe by not going for his pump fakes. They’re letting him take all the fadeaway jumpers he wants by not biting on his head fakes; Ray did an excellent job in the first quarter on him, and that sent a message that he wasn’t gonna get many easy drives to the hoop. It’ll be interesting to see how the Lakers respond…

  • B. Long

    @Joel O’s: I think Phil lost a little confidence in Luke after the way he played in the Utah and San Antonio series. His shooting has been a little off lately too. But he still seems like he would be better than Vlad. He’s def. a better defender at least.

  • http://slamonline.com The J-Man

    Pierce was the best player on the floor in the third/ f*ck Kobe b*tch a*s h*

  • tealish

    Joel: Agreed. That’s all you can ask for out of the Celtics assigned to Kobe. Just stay in front of him, contest a little bit, but not get over-anxious. I was surprised at how easily Kobe got whatever he wanted against Bruce Bowen(!) of all people. I think Bowen tried too hard to be a “stopper”, reacting to every move. Ray played it smart – up close, but not too close.
    And I also think having Ray guard Kobe is good for Ray’s overall game. It keeps him motivated and energized. Too often he’s too uninvolved in the game, just waiting for his spot-up shot while Rondo’s dribbling around finding PP or KG. You got to remember, Ray’s a star. Get him involved on both ends, and it’ll pay dividends.

  • B. Long

    @The J-Man: Does the J in your name stand for Jizz Guzzler?

  • Michael

    Maybe I exagerated with saying Kobe is easy to gaurd. But he does have an extreme amount of games where he’s been shut down in comparison to other all-time greats.

  • B. Long

    @Michael: 22 pts. is being shut down? News to me…

  • marcgar

    22 point out of 24 shots… whats that considered

  • Michael

    He took 25 shots to get 24 points. Paul pierce took 10 to get 22.

  • B. Long

    He had an off night. Getting shut down is what Ray Ray did earlier in the playoffs…

  • http://www.ravingblacklunatic.blogspot.com Allenp

    Since Kobe won his first ring he’s never averaged fewer than 20 points in the playoffs. In the 2001 finals Kobe averaged 24.6, 7 boards and 6 assists on 41 percent shooting. In the 2002 Finals he averaged 26.8 points on 51 percent shooting. In 2004 he averaged 22.6 on 38 percent shooting. I couldn’t find his numbers from the 2000 Finals on teh Lakers page.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    Regardless, judging Kobe’s playoff performances on a string of series when he was in his early 20s and ONE game this year seems a bit premature.

  • http://www.clutchfans.net/images/headline/kobe_bryant_rocket.jpg Hursty

    to say that Pierce’s injury was a fake isnt cool. The replays showed his knee twisting out at a weird angle, he probably didnt want to do any more damage by walking on it if in fact it was injured. For him to come back was risky but if the docs thought he was ok then there wasnt any said risk.

  • Mark

    OK, the C’s won game 1 with hard work and good defense, but all those boston fans should have other things on their minds. Things like how do they win if Mamba actually has a mamba-like playoff night (30, 6 rpg and 5 dimes), and more importantly, how do they win game 2 if the Lakers bench actually decides to show.

    Those two factors added in are mucher greater than the 10 point deficit handed down to the lakers on Thursday night!

  • Lakers4life

    Look, do you recall in Talladega Nights the Ballad of Ricky Bobby when Will Ferrell wrecked and he came out of the car and thought he was on fire. Well in his mind he really though he was engulfed in a ball of flames. Paul Pierce said he heard a “pop” in his knee and he thought the worse, well in his mind he really thought it was over, his career flashed before his eyes. He knows he over reacted, he’s embarrassed by it and that is the end of that, lets move on to game two. And no, that is not your mind playing tricks on you today, yes that is the Mamba taking it to you today.

  • marcel

    MARCEL IS A FRAUDSTER!!!

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