One of the interesting dynamics of this NBA Finals is how the image of these Celtics and Lakers are so vastly different than in years past. Boston’s Paul Pierce is actually a California boy, having grown up in Inglewood, just a few minutes from the Fabulous Forum.
Asked what this match-up meant to him, Pierce seemed genuinely torn:
“It means everything to Boston fans. To me, I think that’s what pretty much got me started in basketball, growing up in Los Angeles, watching the Lakers and the Celtics, and it’s ironic, just being a Celtic, growing up, now you’re playing against the Lakers in The Finals. As a kid, I hated the Celtics. I’m going back home to play against my team that I grew up watching.
“It’s a dream come true, man, just thinking about it. I think that rivalry really revolutionized the game of basketball, and now I’m a part of it.”
After over four months on the sidelines, the former UCLA star enters the game with about 5 and half minutes left in the game to a standing ovation from the sellout crowd. He wastes little time getting into the stat sheet, draining a 15-footer in front of Brent Barry.
You know it’s a blowout when Damon Stoudamire is in the game. The Spurs have gone stone cold in the second half and seem to have given up on this one. They’ve got a mix of second and third unit guys in the game now.
Now that’s the way to close out a half. After a sluggish period for both teams, the Lakers blitz the Spurs, going on an 9-0 run over the final 2:15 of the half. First Pau Gasol makes a nice move to the basket, then Sasha Vujacic drains back-to-back jumpers, then Derek Fisher steals the ball near midcourt and takes it in for a lay-up. Tim Duncan has a chance to get some of it back, but clanks two free throws off the rim with 2.4 seconds remaining.
The Spurs had a day to recover from blowing a 20-point third quarter lead in Game 1, but the hangover lingers into the beginning of Game 2. The Spurs shot just 33 percent in the first quarter and fell behind 17-11. The Lakers had a chance to really build the lead, but can’t seem to hang on to the ball, turning it over four times in the final four minutes of the quarter.
Trevor Ariza will be in uniform and ready to go for tonight’s game against the Spurs. How much he’ll play is still in question, but you can see why Phil Jackson made this move. Ariza is long, fast and athletic. Precisely the kind of player the Lakers need to help shut down the Spurs dribble penetration.
“I feel good,” Ariza said after warming up on the court. “I’m ready to go.”
Kobe Bryant scores with 1:29 to go in the half. HIS FIRST POINTS OF THE GAME. No, we’re not kidding. Before that basket, Bryant had missed the only two shots he’d taken, opting instead to pass when San Antonio stuffed his dribble penetration. Unfortunately, his teammates weren’t exactly knocking down shots, making just 39 percent of their shots in the quarter. If not for a good run by the second unit, the Lakers would really be in trouble.
In the first quarter, the Lakers came out of the blocks like a team that’s been sitting around for five days and the Spurs took advantage. Tony Parker blew by Derek Fisher on seemingly every possession, prompting Phil Jackson to put Jordan Farmar in with 2:05 left in the quarter. Good thing he did. After the Spurs build the lead to 27-18, Farmar sparks the Lakers on a 6-0 run to close out the quarter and cut San Antonio’s lead to three points.
Andrew Bynum’s surgery was deemed a success by Lakers coach Phil Jackson today and the 7-foot-1 center should be “100 percent and ready to play” in three months.
“I think Andrew is glad he did it,” Jackson said before Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against the Spurs. “I thing there is a sense of `let’s move forward and get on with this,’ you know, and start the recovery process because there was no hope for him to return to us and play for us in the playoffs.”
Kobe Bryant joked yesterday about having to pick up the tab for the team dinner again, saying the team might have to go for fast food this time, but apparently that was just a smoke screen because Bryant dropped some serious cash on luxury watches for his teammates as a sort of “thank you” for helping him win the MVP award this season.
The watches, each hand made by Jaeger-LeCoultre watchmakers, were flown from Switzerland straight to Los Angeles and personalized with an engraving of the year and each player’s name.