BOSTON -- This series will be won on the inside. It will be won in the paint. Based on what I saw Thursday night in the Lakers’ 98-88 loss in Game 1, I honestly don’t know if they will have enough inside to be effective in this series, but they certainly didn’t get inside in this game. Their presence in the paint was nonexistent except in the transition game. They were outrebounded, 46-33, including 10-7 on the offensive boards.
Then there was the momentum factor. Last I checked, Larry Bird is in Indianapolis and Willis Reed is retired, but Paul Pierce did a heck of an imitation of those guys in the third quarter, leaving the court in a wheelchair after spraining his right knee only to come back quickly and hit two big three-pointers. The arena was in “Beat L.A.!” mode all night, but Pierce’s return really lifted this place.
Taking the long view of this series, defense wins championships, and the Lakers cannot out-defend the Celtics. So the Lakers have to go Phoenix Suns. They have to go Dallas Mavericks. They have to turn this into a track meet, using their legs and speed.
And that starts at the jump ball. For the Lakers, it was “Dancing with the Stars” for far too long at the beginning of the game. You can do that for the first minute, maybe the first two minutes, maybe just long enough to say hello, but then you’ve got to get aggressive, and the Lakers did not. They have to get in the attack mode right away.
Surprises on the scoring sheet: On the Lakers’ side, Kobe Bryant shot only six free throws. He couldn’t get to the basket unless he wanted to run over somebody and take the charge. For the most part, he was just settling for jump shots.
For Boston, guard Rajon Rondo, in his first NBA Finals game, matched his veteran counterpart Derek Fisher. They each had 15 points. That’s not a slight on Fisher. It’s just very impressive on Rondo’s part.
Three things the Lakers must do in Game 2:
1) Increase the tempo. No more waltzing through the opening minutes.
2) Explore their offense more. Abandon such total reliance on the jump shot early in the shot clock. Consistently relying on jump shots can kill you. Fall back on jumpers only in the final five seconds or so of the clock. Thursday, the Lakers took jump shot after jump shot after jump shot.
3) Finally, do a better job on the boards. Whether they have enough size to counter Boston, the Lakers can do more in terms of boxing out. Too many times Thursday night, it was one and done for the Lakers.