Kobe Bryant and the Lakers produced a sizzling, physical display at both ends of the court to overpower the Celtics 102-89 in Game One on Thursday.
In a bruising contest at Staples Center, 12-times All-Star guard Bryant scored 30 points and Spanish forward Pau Gasol added 23 for the Lakers, chasing a second consecutive title and 16th overall.
Los Angeles, outplayed and outmuscled by Boston in the 2008 Finals, delivered one of their toughest performances of the season, out-rebounding their opponents 42-31 and sweeping the second-chance points 16-0 to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven finals series.
“It wasn’t the prettiest basketball game I’ve ever watched in my life but it was a good win for us,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.
“We sustained the lead in the second half even though we had some tough sequences out there.”
Ominously for the Celtics, Jackson has never lost a play-off series in 47 attempts with either the Chicago Bulls or the Lakers when his team has won the opening game.
“I wish I had put it in the bank, so to speak,” said the veteran coach, who has won a record 10 NBA Championship rings.
“We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, but it’s nice to know that (the 47-0 run) is on our side.”
But Celtics star Tony Allen has countered with some numbers of his own.
“If you want to bring that up, our starting five has never lost a (play-off) series,” Allen pointed out.
Boston’s shooting guard Ray Allen had a tough night trying to look after Bryant on Thursday, and faces another tough night tomorrow.
“I know where I need to be and I know what I need to do,’’ Allen said. “Obviously I’ve got to do a better job.’’
The Lakers shot 48.7% from the floor while holding the Celtics to 43.3%. Boston captain and forward Paul Pierce finished with 24 points but guard Rajon Rondo was held to 13 points on six-for-14 shooting for the Celtics, who are bidding for a record 18th NBA championship.
“The Lakers were clearly the more physical team,” Boston coach Doc Rivers said. “They attacked us the entire night. We take pride in our defence, and we didn’t do it.”
They get another chance tomorrow. Game Two in the best-of-seven series takes place in Los Angeles tomorrow.