After all the talk about the legends of the game, the history of the rivalry, the outcome of the previous 10 matchups, and everyone in America weighing in on the outcome, it was finally time to play ball.
The Celtics came out as what can only be described as physical and resolved.
The Lakers did not.
The result was a 98-88 victory as the Celtics took Game One. The Celtics outrebounded and outhustled the Lakers.
The first quarter featured both teams feeling each other out, like two boxers sparring. The playoffs are all about adjustments, and there were adjustments by both teams. The first quarter was pretty even, ending 23-21 for Boston.
The second quarter featured more adjustments, the Lakers' ball and player movement was crisp, resulting in 12 assists in the first half, and some knocked down shots.
The Lakers were able to capitalize on the Celtics poor pick-and-roll coverage, so Pau Gasol was able to come alive. But Kevin Garnett was a force, and led the Celtics in scoring with 24 points and 13 rebounds. Ray Allen finished with 19 points.
Paul Pierce was saddled with foul trouble and wasn't a factor early on, but that would change. The Celtics used several players to defend Kobe Bryant and did a solid job on him collectively.
The combination of good defense and missed shots saw Kobe shoot 9-26 from the field, he would finish with 24 quiet points.
Sam Cassell scored six big points. The Lakers outplayed the Celtics in the second quarter, and took a five-point lead at into halftime.
In the third quarter, with 6:49 to go on a Kobe Bryant drive, Paul Pierce collided with teammate Kendrick Perkins and left the game. He lay sprawled on the floor before being carried off the court, and later wheeled into the locker room with what appeared to be a sprained knee.
The Boston crowd cheered loudly when Pierce came back to the bench, and louder when he re-entered the game at the 5:04 mark. The return of their leader rejuvenated the Celtics.
Pierce outscored Kobe Bryant in the quarter 15-12, giving the Celtics a 75-71 lead. Paul Pierce’s two three-pointers in 22 seconds made the difference in the game.
Derek Fisher and Pau Gasol finished with 15 points apiece, and Lamar Odom added 14 points, as the Lakers suffered their fourth loss in the playoffs. The Celtics led 77-73 at the end of the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Boston quickly pushed their lead to eight points after a three-pointer by James Posey. Fisher and Sasha Vujacic scored to get the Lakers within four at 86-82, but then Paul Pierce countered with a jumper and two free throws to put Boston up 90-82.
The Lakers would fight back and get within six points, until Garnett, who had missed nine shots in a row, followed up a miss with a ferocious dunk to seal Boston’s Game One win.
Game One lived up to the hype and made the legends proud. The Celtics outplayed the Lakers, and executed down the stretch. The Lakers will need to make some adjustments in order to have a different outcome in Game Two Sunday night.