LOS ANGELES — So the Celtics want to play rough again? Kobe Bryant and the Lakers look ready this time around, and they barged into an early lead in the NBA Finals.
Bryant scored 30 points, Pau Gasol had 23 points and 14 rebounds, and defending champion Los Angeles got tough in a 102-89 victory over Boston in the Finals opener Thursday night.
Ron Artest scored 15 after tumbling to the ground in a tangle with Paul Pierce in the opening minute of the 12th Finals meeting in the NBA's most scintillating rivalry. Bryant and Gasol then led a gritty physical effort against the Celtics, who memorably pushed around the Lakers while winning their 2008 Finals matchup in six games.
"They were the more physical team by far," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "They were more aggressive. They attacked us the entire night. I didn't think we handled it very well."
Pierce scored 24 and Kevin Garnett added 16 after a slow start for the Celtics, who might not want to know Lakers coach Phil Jackson's teams in Los Angeles and Chicago have won 47 straight playoff series after winning Game 1.
If the first 48 minutes of the rematch are any indication, this series again will be a knockdown, drag-out physical confrontation — and the supposedly finesse-oriented Lakers held their ground early.
Ray Allen scored 12 in just 27 minutes, saddled with constant foul trouble while trying to guard Bryant. Pierce also picked up early fouls, while Garnett was 7-for-16 from the field and had just four rebounds. He missed an open layup with 5½ minutes to play.
That was mostly because of Gasol, the 7-footer determined to assert himself after admittedly getting pushed around by Garnett two years ago. Gasol capped a strong game by sprinting downcourt and catching a long pass in stride for a dunk with 6:21 to play.
This one was rough from the opening tumble.
Just 27 seconds in, Artest and Pierce got double technical fouls after crashing to the court back-to-back with elbows locked. The mood didn't improve much in a game featuring 54 fouls.
Los Angeles held a 42-31 edge in rebounding.
Andrew Bynum scored 10 on his injured right knee as the Lakers improved to 9-0 at home in the playoffs, with 12 straight postseason home wins dating to last year's championship run.
|Lakers lead series 1-0|
BOSTON (89): Pierce 6-13 12-13 24, Garnett 7-16 2-2 16, Perkins 2-2 4-5 8, Rondo 6-14 1-4 13, R.Allen 3-8 6-6 12, T.Allen 1-4 2-2 4, Wallace 3-4 2-2 9, Davis 1-3 1-2 3, Finley 0-0 0-0 0, Robinson 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 29-67 30-36 89.
L.A. LAKERS (102): Artest 5-10 2-2 15, Gasol 8-14 7-10 23, Bynum 4-6 2-4 10, Fisher 3-8 3-3 9, Bryant 10-22 9-10 30, Vujacic 0-1 0-0 0, Odom 2-6 1-2 5, Farmar 2-4 0-0 4, Brown 3-5 0-0 6, Walton 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 37-76 24-31 102.
3-Point Goals—Boston 1-10 (Wallace 1-2, Robinson 0-2, R.Allen 0-2, Pierce 0-4), L.A. Lakers 4-10 (Artest 3-5, Bryant 1-2, Vujacic 0-1, Odom 0-2). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Boston 38 (Pierce 9), L.A. Lakers 52 (Gasol 14). Assists—Boston 19 (Rondo 8), L.A. Lakers 18 (Bryant 6). Total Fouls—Boston 28, L.A. Lakers 26. Technicals—Pierce, Wallace, Artest. A—18,997 (18,997).
STERN: NO SUMMIT: There will be no free agency summit.
So says commissioner David Stern, claiming he has been assured at the "highest level" that there will be no sitdown among LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and other superstars who could hit the market on July 1.
And that was the players' choice, not an order from him.
"I would expect our players to talk to one another, and we don't have any problem with that," Stern said Thursday at his annual Finals press conference. "If some kind of tampering is implicated, I will have a later and different view, but we're not expecting that."
The idea of the get-together among the free agents grew after Wade said the players would talk to each other at some point, though he never said they would all gather in one place to have an official discussion.
WADE CASE: Wade has temporary custody of his two sons by a judge in Chicago. The court cited three instances where Wade's visitation schedules were altered by his estranged wife, Siohvaughn, the last happening when she allegedly would not open the gate to her home.
BOBCATS: Larry Brown is preparing for next season in Charlotte and is leaning toward returning for a third season coaching the team, AP reported.
WNBA: Katie Douglas scored 22 to help host Indiana beat San Antonio 79-57.