Los Angeles Ron Artest and Paul Pierce went back-to-back with their elbows locked, both unwilling to yield even an inch underneath the hoop. The veteran forwards crashed to the court together and got up looking to rumble, earning double technical fouls. And that was just in the first 27 seconds.
This NBA finals rematch was rough from the opening tumble, but Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol made sure the Los Angeles Lakers landed the first shot on the Boston Celtics.
Bryant scored 30 points, Gasol had 23 points and 14 rebounds, and defending champion Los Angeles got tough in a 102-89 victory over Boston in Game 1 on Thursday night.
Artest scored 15 points after his tangle with Pierce in the opening minute of the 12th finals meeting between the NBA’s most scintillating rivals. It was the opening salvo in a gritty physical effort against the Celtics, who memorably pushed around the Lakers while winning their 2008 finals matchup in six games.
The Lakers are the champs now, and they’re not giving it up without a tussle or two.
“I knew it was going to be physical. That’s a given,” Gasol said. “After consecutive finals, we understand the nature of the game. We understand who our rival is, how they play. You’ve got to compete, and you’ve got to match that physicality effort of the game to be successful.”
Pierce scored 24 points, 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.
“I wish I had put it in the bank, so to speak,” said Jackson, the 10-time champion. “We’ve got to play this out. ... Our defense stiffened at various points in the game, was very effective. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, but it’s nice to know that (the 47-0 streak) is on our side.”
Game 2 is Sunday night.