The Lakers led the Celtics by five at halftime, but were unable to weather a red-hot Paul Pierce in the third quarter as they were outscored 52-37 in the second half on their way to a 98-88 Game 1 loss.
It was a tale of two halves tonight,” said Coach Jackson after the game. “We had some control in the first half, played the kind of game we wanted to play, and the second half we came out and immediately wiped out the lead we had established in about 20 seconds, a matter of two possessions. So it was quite a flurry that they came out and played that third quarter with, put us back on our heels.”
Although Kevin Garnett led Boston with 24 points, Paul Pierce shined with 22 points after being carried off the court by his teammates due to a knee injury sustained during an important juncture in the third quarter.
“A guy grabs his knee, you know, there’s no good thoughts,” said Celtics Coach Doc Rivers. “I was really proud, honestly, of our team during the stretch when he was in the locker room. I thought that was the biggest part of the game. We could have easily felt sorry for ourselves. We actually made a little run there. But then when he came out he was big for us.”
Kobe Bryant led the Lakers in scoring with 24, but it took him an inefficient 26 shots to get there. Lamar Odom scored 14, while Pau Gasol and Derek Fisher each chipped in 15.
“I think he thought he was shooting the ball pretty well, they just didn’t stay in.” said Jackson. “A lot of them rattled out. I said to him, check it out, he had some guys open in other parts of the offense, but he said he had some good looks. You live on that. That’s going to happen.”
With Game 2 this Sunday, Bryant said that the sometimes it takes teams a few games to adapt to the physical play of their opponent, citing the Jazz and Spurs’ series.
“We got a little stagnant,” said Kobe. “I think our rhythm wasn’t there, wasn’t what we like it to be. Still we played well enough to almost steal the game. Some balls bounced their way tonight. They scrapped and they clawed their way to this victory. They played a lot more physical than we did, and I think that’s something we have to adjust to and get ready for Game 2.”