Thursday night's match up between basketball titans Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Cetics was quite a surprise to many. They may not have been surprized that the Lakers won at home but the manner in which they won was the story.
In 2008, the Lakers were bullied into submission and took their lunch money as they took the series in six games. With Trevor Ariza and Andrew Bynum out with injuries, Pau Gasol was forced to play center and was tossed around the paint like salad by Kendrick Perkins.
Lamarr Odom had to start at power forward and struggled with Kevin Garnette. That was not all of it. Paul Pierce looked like the best player to ever play the game because he had Vladamir Rodmanavich guarding him.
Two years later, the Lakers want their lunck money back. The Lakers came back to challege their bully with new addition Ron Artest and a healthier Bynum. Artest would show his new teammates the way early as he wrestled Pierce to the hard wood in pursuit of rebound positioning.
From there the "smack down" would begin. While Kobe was his usual 30 point scoring self, Gasol surprised many with his abuse of Garnette. Gasol finished with 23 points, 14 rebounds and 3 blocks. Garnette had 16 points and 3 rebounds.
The Lakers as a team outrebounded the Celtics 42 to 31. That would lead to 16 second chance points to none for the Celtics. That is physical dominance.
Pierce had 24 points and 9 rebounds but wasn't much of a factor when Artest was on him. Ray Allen had the chore of guarding Bryant and that landed him on the bench with foul trouble. Rajon Rondo was good early but disappeared once Bryant was put on him.
Perkins looks to have been exposed by a gimpy Bynum. Bynum had 10 points on 4 of 6 shooting and 6 rebounds in just 28 minutes. Perkins had 8 points and only 3 rebounds in 24 minutes.
There were no real key shots or turning points in this game. It was just a physical "smack down" and the Lakers were the ones to do it this time. With the extra length and strength provided by Artest and Bynum, the Lakers beat the Celtics at their own game.
Celtic head coach Doc Rivers acknowledged that in saying, "They were definately the more physical team tonignt." Boston looked a little out of sorts as they thought they were going to be the physical team.
It carried over to the post game podium with Pierce as he said, " Is that what you want me to say." when responding to a question. Though it was only game one, it looks pretty bleak for the Celtics.
There are no real adjustments they could make. (Maybe a zone) All they could do at this point is play harder. However, the Lakers know that and that should make them match any intensity the Celtics bring. Any style change should favor the more versitile Lakers.
I expect the Celtics best punch on Sunday. If the Celtics don't somehow come up with a victory, don't expect a long series.