With much of the attention yesterday focused on Paul Pierce's sprained right knee, almost overlooked was the left ankle sprain suffered by Kendrick Perkins. It came 36 seconds after Pierce was carried off the court with 6:49 remaining in the third quarter of the Celtics' 98-88 triumph over the Lakers in Game 1 Thursday night.
"Perk, you know, I think it's a high ankle sprain, which is never good," coach Doc Rivers said at TD Banknorth Garden. "But he'll be ready for Sunday."
Perkins hobbled off the court under his own power after rolling his ankle, then went to the locker room, where he passed Pierce, who was on his way back to the court. Perkins returned with 3:40 remaining in the quarter but went straight to the bench.
"I was really mad at myself," said Perkins, who inadvertently injured Pierce when he landed on him trying to contest a shot by Kobe Bryant.
"You know, I was just trying to help him out and go challenge the shot, and he was probably just in the wrong place at the wrong time," Perkins said. "But when he came back I was happy. But man, I was kind of mad at myself for a minute, though."
When he returned, Perkins told Rivers he was "60 percent." Rivers said, "I don't know how he knew it was that percent, but he said 60 percent, so I was thinking, 'Well, that's not good enough.' "
Perkins sat for the remainder of the game, with P.J. Brown handling the job down the stretch, scoring 2 points to go with 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 blocked shot in 21 minutes.
"Last night it felt like it was really swollen," Perkins said. "P.J. was playing well anyway, and the most important thing is to get the win. It doesn't really matter who's on the court. The way I was feeling, I felt like I shouldn't have been out there. P.J. ended up doing a good job."
Although he indicated yesterday his ankle was "still about 60 [percent]," Perkins noted, "It's only about a 10-hour turnaround. So I'm still trying to get rest, so I'm going to just ice it."
Room to improveAlthough the Celtics didn't play their best in Game 1, Rivers said it provided the team with added confidence.
"Obviously, we're extremely happy that we won the game, but we're better than that," Rivers said. "I thought we missed a lot of good shots, as well."
"I know they scored 88 points, but I think we can be a better defensive team than we were [Thursday] night in stretches," Rivers said. "I thought the second half was terrific, absolutely terrific. But in the first half, I didn't think we were as good as we've been."
The Celtics entered the Finals as the league's best defensive team, allowing 87.3 points per game, and held the Lakers to 37 points in the second half.
As for the Celtics' offense?
"I don't think we ever established a great offensive flow," Rivers said. "We scored 98 points. We were 3 for 12 in transition when we had numbers, and I think five of those were turnovers. But we had numbers. So we can clearly be more efficient, and so can they. And we know they will be, as well."
Rondo was all earsRajon Rondo, playing in his first Finals, soaked up every bit of advice Sam Cassell had to offer before Game 1. After all, Cassell is a 15-year veteran with two championship rings. "He just told me to go out there and not to try to do anything I haven't done all year," said Rondo, who had 15 points, 7 assists, and 5 rebounds. "I just stayed aggressive," said Rondo. "They ran and jumped a lot and I just kept moving with the ball. I tried to attack the rim. I mean, we got a bonus in the third quarter at seven minutes, so that was my goal when Paul went down; to attack and try to stay aggressive." . . . Pierce's 4-point play in the third quarter was the 10th in Finals history . . . In league history, the winner of Game 1 has won the Finals 44 times and lost 17.
Monique Walker and Julian Benbow of the Globe staff contributed to this report.