Though other issues are more pressing — including the play of Pau Gasol, and the Celtics’ issues with rebounding and fouls – Boston chooses to focus on the Lakers guard. Of all the Celtics’ issues after losing Game 1 of the NBA Finals to the Lakers on Thursday, Kobe Bryant had to be at the bottom of the list. He scored 30, sure, but for a guy who has scored 81, 30 points aren’t special; more routine than anything. One could even say it was scheduled, since Bryant wanted revenge for the ’08 Finals loss to the Celtics, which ended in embarrassment.
More pressing for the Celtics seemed Lakers big man Pau Gasol, sometimes known as “Gasoft,” who had 23 points and 14 rebounds against the heralded Celtics frontline. And if Gasol wasn’t the biggest fire burning Celtics title hopes, then it was rebounding. If not that, then second-chance points, or foul trouble even. Just pick one from the Celtics’ bountiful list of what went wrong.
Paul Pierce, the Celtics captain, did, but went deep into that file and pulled out Bryant’s name.
“Everybody knows he’s going to shoot the ball, everybody knows he’s going to be aggressive,” Pierce said. “So we’ve got to do a better job getting the ball out of his hands.” Pierce spent some time guarding Bryant, when Celtics guard Ray Allen wasn’t on the bench with foul trouble after giving it a shot.
Bryant didn’t seem to be bothered by either, or by Celtics guard Tony Allen. The Lakers star finished 10 of 22 from the floor, nine of 10 from the free throw line, and added seven rebounds and six assists. The issue of who would guard Bryant came up earlier in the week.
Said Celtics Coach Doc Rivers: “Everybody will guard Kobe. It won’t just be Paul. It’ll be Ray, Tony Allen, Marquis [Daniels] – if we can get him healthy in time…. [ Rajon] Rondo may even do some. I haven’t met that guy yet that can guard Kobe, that one guy. It’s going to be a team effort.” But after Thursday, Rivers may make an adjustment because the fouls Allen picked up guarding Bryant kept him out of the game. He scored 12 points, attempting just two three-point shots, and played just 27 minutes. “We have to make an adjustment there, that’s for sure,” he said.
Pierce gave his opinion on what to do. “Just limit his touches, can’t let him get to the spots he wants to get to,” Pierce said. “I thought he was way too comfortable on the floor to shoot, posted, got the ball from midrange, got to the basket. When you’re playing a great player who can do so many things, you’ve got to take something away. I didn’t think we took anything away from him.”