Stud Of The Night Boston's Big Three waited a long time to reach the Finals. They played like it in Game 1. Kevin Garnett (24 points, 13 rebounds), Paul Pierce (22 points) and Ray Allen (19, right) all came up big to lead a balanced attack on offense and a terrific team effort on defense. Pierce provided the night's big emotional spark (see below), but Garnett quietly came up huge in his own way. The former MVP had eight points and four rebounds in the first quarter to help make sure Boston got off to a good start, then helped seal the outcome with a ferocious two-handed rebound jam in the final minutes.
Dud Of The Night Kobe Bryant is going to have to wait at least one more game to do that Michael Jordan thing. The MVP came up empty in the fourth quarter, misfiring on five of six field-goal attempts and finishing with just four points in crunch time as the Celtics pulled away for the victory. Bryant didn't play a bad game. He still led the Lakers with 24 points and six assists. But he wasn't able to Be Like Mike on this night.
Play Of The Night It wasn't exactly Willis Reed coming out of the tunnel in Game 7 of the '70 Finals, but it might have felt like déjà vu to Lakers fans. When Pierce returned to the floor to the strains of Rocky with 5:04 to play in the third quarter, the TD Banknorth Garden crowd went into a frenzy. Moments earlier Pierce had been carried off the floor after spraining his knee. But his rousing return -- and consecutive three-pointers -- helped spark a 9-4 run to close out the quarter and give the Celtics the lead for good at 77-73.
Courtside Confidential The first Finals game in Boston in 21 years had the Hub swelling with pride. Celtics imagery was everywhere, with posters of players all around town. City crews erected a 40-foot replica of the Larry O'Brien Trophy on Causeway Street outside the TD Banknorth Garden. ... All fans were given white T-shirts with Beat LA printed on the front, courtesy of a local sporting goods store, but it was hardly a sea of white. Many fans had worn green to the game. ... According to a local ticket broker, seats in the nose-bleed sections were going for about $150 on the day of the game. A seat on the floor cost about $1,500. ... Basketball royalty was everywhere, with Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Dr. J. among the former NBA legends on the court before the game. ... Among the celebs in attendance were James Taylor (who sang the National Anthem), Bruce Willis,Randy Moss and Sen. John Kerry. ... Best sign seen in the crowd was a picture of Jack Nicholson with the words: L.A. Can't Handle The Truth. ... Either the Boston media are homers, or they know something. All eight reporters from the Globe and the Herald picked the Celtics to win the series.
Lookahead The pressure now builds for the Lakers heading into Sunday's Game 2. While it is not a must-win, it is important for L.A. to get at least a split of the first two games. Only three teams in history have ever come back from an 0-2 deficit to win the Finals ('69 Celtics, '77 Blazers, '06 Heat). The good news for L.A. is that Boston was primed for Game 1 and yet still couldn't put it away until the end. Also, Bryant had a lot of shots rattle in and out in the fourth quarter. But if L.A. is going to bounce back it is going to have to do a much better job rebounding. The Celtics hammered the Lakers 46-33 on the boards Thursday night. That isn't going to get it done.
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