Lakers' Tough Performance Beats Boston 102-89
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
The Los Angeles Lakers won the first game of the NBA finals last night. They beat the Boston Celtics by 13 points. You may recall that just two years ago, the Celtics manhandled the Lakers to win the NBA title. The two teams reversed those roles last night, as NPR's Tom Goldman reports.
Unidentified Man: And the final, Lakers 102, the Celtics 89, Lakers lead the series one game to nothing. And everyone wins tacos.
TOM GOLDMAN: It was a doubly delicious ending for Lakers fans. The home team won, and because L.A.'s defense held Boston to under 100 points, tacos were on the house. Hours earlier, another Spanish word hung in the air - suave or soft. But this wasn't one to cheer. Certainly not in reference to a professional basketball team.
Suave was what Spanish power forward Pau Gasol, in particular, had to hear after he and his Laker teammates got pushed around by the Celtics in the 2008 finals. They had to hear the reminders as they approached game one last night.
But only 30 seconds into the game, Boston's Paul Pierce and L.A.'s Ron Artest locked elbows fighting for rebound position. They crashed to the floor, got up looking ready to fight, and suave officially became a thing of the past.
Crowd: Defense. Defense.
GOLDMAN: As the partisan crowd chanted defense, the Lakers played. Said Boston coach Doc Rivers, they attacked us the entire night. Tony Allen is a shooting guard for the Celtics.
Mr. TONY ALLEN (Shooting guard, Boston Celtic): We didn't come out with that fire that we've been showing throughout these playoffs. And I think that the more we let them be the aggressors and not react, I think they'll always have the edge. So we've just got to be ready to fight as soon as they come out.
GOLDMAN: L.A. out rebounded Boston 42-31. The Lakers held Celtics quicksilver point guard Rajon Rondo in check, repeatedly preventing him from zipping down the court to lead a fast break. While Bryant led his team in scoring with 30 points, the man leading the anti-suave charge was, fittingly, Gasol - 23 points, 14 rebounds, 3 blocks. He did everything.
Well, almost. He didn't give reporters that perfect soundbite afterwards about how 2008 gnawed at him and how he wanted to come out and make a statement to the basketball world. He wasn't soft after all.
Mr. PAU GASOL (Forward, Los Angeles Lakers): No statements to be made. You know, my goal, our goal is to win the championship, you know. Not just the first game and not just to make a statement here, right now.
GOLDMAN: Gasol's statement on the court, as well as the strong performance by his frontline partner, center Andrew Bynum, was enough to keep the Lakers faithful happy and buzzing about evening the score from two years ago. Although, there was news yesterday that put many an L.A. basketball fan in a more somber mood.
Legendary UCLA coach John Wooden, 99, was said to be in grave condition in a local hospital. Before last night's game started, NBA commissioner David Stern refused to, as he put it, declare Wooden's obituary. But Stern did say this...
Mr. DAVID STERN (NBA commissioner): He is the winningest coach in our history -four 30-0 seasons, and the ultimate aficionado of our game. And we hope he's, you know, in peace right now and we'll wait on events.
GOLDMAN: The NBA finals event continues Sunday with game 2.
Tom Goldman, NPR News, Los Angeles.
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