Los Angeles came out shooting last night, but shooting doesn't guarantee scoring, and when shot after shot bounced off the rim, the Lakers began to get anxious. They took more jump shots with less success, and after leading for much of the third quarter, allowed Boston to run off with a 98-88 victory in Game 1 of the NBA Finals at TD Banknorth Garden.
Pau Gasol opened the game with a 15-foot jump shot, but it was a sharp start to a dull performance for the center, who collected 15 points on 6-for-11 shooting from the field, and reeled in eight rebounds, but let as many slip by.
"They did a better job on the boards," said Gasol. "They got all the loose balls and that just gave them extra possessions, and we definitely need them."
The Celtics outrebounded the Lakers, 46-33, and Los Angeles never seemed to get comfortable under the basket. Even Kobe Bryant was missing the net.
"The ball didn't move as well as we did in the first half," said Gasol, after the Lakers finished shooting 41.6 percent from the floor and hit 3 of 14 3-pointers. "We didn't make the open shots when we had them. When we moved the ball, we didn't knock them down."
Kevin Garnett stuffed Gasol in the final quarter, jumping over him for a dunk off a rebound of James Posey's missed 3-pointer. That made the score, 94-86, with a minute and a half left, but there was more than the score showing on the court after Garnett's exclamation point.
"It was an action that we're going to try and avoid in the future," Gasol said, swallowing hard. "Obviously, you don't want to give anyone an open dunk like that. The ball bounced right to him, he went and got it, and you know, he finished it well. That's about it."
The Lakers led, 51-46, at halftime, but their shooting went south in the second half. Then Paul Pierce, who left the game briefly after a fall early in the third quarter, returned with a vengeance with about five minutes left in the period. Pierce found time and space for back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Celtics a 75-71 lead, leaving the Lakers deflated.
"That got them going, and gave them confidence," said Gasol. "That's not the start of the second half we were looking for - we were looking to make ourselves a little run."
But the Lakers couldn't hold on to the ball long enough.
"We started the game out good," said Gasol. "Too many loose balls that we didn't get that they got. That was a big difference.
"But, hopefully, next game we'll be sharper and won't be so anxious and we'll be a little more focused and aggressive on the boards for the whole game."