Kobe Bryant: Ah, sweet Mamba...how I've missed thee. He struck for 24 points on 26 shots while shooting only 34 percent from the field. He had 6 assists -- most of which came in the first half -- but also committed a game-high (tied with Ray Allen) 4 turnovers. For what it's worth, he also had by far the worst +/- score on the team (-13). Unless I'm very much mistaken, Kobe tried to use his patented "Defer to my teammates in the first half, then turn it on in the second half" strategy. Only he never really turned it on. And, as pointed out on TrueHoop today, he was clearly getting frustrated and gave at least one teammate the stink eye.
I'm sure he was upset because the Celtics did exactly what they wanted to do (and what most of the series previews said they had to do): They kept him out of the paint, didn't foul, and turned him into a jump shooter. Scratch that. An unsuccessful jump shooter. However, Kobe -- being Kobe -- will not be dismayed by one sub-par performance. Said Mamba: "I had some good looks, they just didn't go down for me. I just missed some bunnies. I'll be thinking about those a little bit." Here's a Kobe-to-English translation for you: "Yes, I shot poorly, and yeah, maybe I took some bad shots. But I'm Kobe motherfucking Bryant, so I'm going to shoot, shoot, and keep on shooting whenever and wherever I think best."
So this is where Kobe's newfound maturity and MVPism will be put to the test. Will he shake it off and remain the unselfish, team-first Kobe many people have come to love (or at least appreciate) this season, or will he revert back into the Mamba? My guess: The former. And I have this nauseous feeling that the Lakers are going to win Game 2.
Update! I should have noted that Kobe's bad performance, like Garnett's, was limited to the second half, as DeMeco Shall Inherit The Earth pointed out today in my NBA Closer column: "No mention of the two different Kobe's that showed up? First half Kobe was dishing the ball, getting his teammates (especially Gasol) open looks, and getting his team up by 5 at the half. Second half Kobe--especially fourth quarter Kobe--was taking awkward 18-footers into double-teams and dribbling around for 15 seconds without passing. What the fuck caused the change?"
Mike Breen and Mark Jackson: These girls got a little too excited about the nine shots that Kobe did make last night. I mean, it was like they had an vagina-gasm each and every time Mamba made a bucket. Mind you, Kobe converted some tough hoops to get them all frothing at the mouth, but let's face it...some of those were not good shots. Or, rather, they were "good" only in that they went in. It may be impressive -- no, damn impressive -- when Mamba is hitting what should be impossible shots. But while Breen and Jackson were humping the broadcasting table, Doc Rivers was nodding his head and saying, "Yup, yup, that's what we want: Kobe fading, falling away, and shooting while off-balance."
Update! Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy: Basketbawful reader David reminded me of a continuing problem involving these two platonic lovers. "This isn't something that happened just last night (it's an ongoing thing) but am I the only one annoyed by Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy constantly talking about themselves and each other? I'm not saying they can't be pals, but I wish they'd tone down the self-referencing and talk about the game." Wild Yams added: "Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy really need to just shut up. I can understand doing a little vamping and having those silly discussions if the game is an inconsequential regular season game that happens to be a blowout and they're just looking to kill time; but quit all that crap when it's Game 1 of the Finals between the Celtics and Lakers and it's a hotly contested game the whole way through!"
Sasha Voojychick: Sasha is one of those classic "Love him if he's on your team, hate him if he's not" guys, joining the ranks of M.L. Carr, Dennis Rodman and whoever else you wanna name. And being that he's not on my team, I get to hate the big faker. Last night, Douchacic shot 2-for-7, had no luck on defense, and was the unhappy recipient of the Kobe Bryant stink eye. Good times, good times...
Luke Walton: Last night's "performance" by Luke will not go down in the annals of Lakers-Celtics lore, and it should serve as Exhibit G in the case against Mitch Kupchak suddenly being the bestest GM ever [coughSixyearextensioncough!]. The line: Zero points, 0-for-2, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, and 3 fouls in 13 unlucky minutes. I can only imagine the lengthy diatribe his father must have launched into after the game. (Example: "Luke Walton used to be much better in every aspect of the game.")
Kevin Garnett in the second half: What happened, KG? The Defensive Player of the Year looked more like the Offensive Player of the Year in the first two quarters, scoring 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting. He was so good that Magic Johnson was screaming at halftime for KG to get more shots. Well, he got more shots in the second half, all right: 13 to be exact. And he hit only three of them. During one particularly brutal stretch, Garnett missed nine shots in a row.
And do you know why? In the first half, he was posting hard and making a concerted effort to work his defenders over in the paint. In the second half, after a few aggressive double-teams by the Lakers, he started hovering around the perimeter, bailing out and shooting long jumpers. Didn't KG notice this? Didn't Doc Rivers? Holy hell, why would you go away from what was working for you?! And, once again, this is why Garnett may never shake his anti-clutch reputation.
But you know, I almost forgave him for all those crappy jumpers when he did this:
Kendrick Perkins: He's one of the "wild cards" in this series, and in Game 1, that card was the Joker. The Celtics' starting center scored 1 point (0-for-1) and had as many fouls as rebounds (4). Oh, and that one shot attempt? It was blocked from behind by Pau Gasol. But worst of all, it was his blundering collision with Paul Pierce that caused Truth's knee sprain. Which, of course, turned out okay for Boston in Game 1...but how's that knee going to feel in Game 2 when all the adrenaline has worn off? Plus, let's not forget that he hurt his ankle doing nothing.
Sam Cassell: For a few glorious minutes last night, Sam-I-Am was every bit the spark plug that Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers prayed he'd be. But here's the problem with Sam: When he hits his first couple shots -- as he did last night -- he starts gunnin'. And that's not a good thing. Not by a long shot. After starting out 2-for-2, Sam went 2-for-7 the rest of the way...and some of those shots were of the ugliest possible variety. And it caused Basketbawful reader Justin to email me the following one-sentence observation: "Sam Cassell is a big, smelly turd."
James Posey: It wasn't just the crappy stats -- 3 points, 1-for-6 shooting, 2 rebounds, 2 turnovers, 3 fouls -- it was the fact that he never really had much of an impact on the game, offensively or (worst) defensively. When Pierce went down with the knee injury, I was thinking: "Okay. The Celtics need Posey to step up." And part of me really believed he'd go gangbusters.
Paul Pierce, Hero or Faker: I got a handful of comments and emails after last night's game suggesting that Pierce faked his knee injury. (And there's one journalist who's at least suggesting it.) And even I have to admit, I had a few moments of doubt after he came back and splashed home back-to-back threes. I mean, we all know that Paul wants to win a title. And he probably wants to be the inspiration for his team and carve a permanent spot for himself on The Big Rock of Celtics Lore. So if he was going to orchestrate a Wills Reed impersonation, I would hope he'd have the good sense to do it the way Larry did and wait until an elimination game.
But here's the thing: I don't think Paul was faking. I think he felt some pain and heard something scary and freaked out a little. I would have done the same thing. Hell, I have done the same thing (although I didn't have Brian Scalabrine and Tony Allen there to carry me off to safety). Here's how Pierce described that terrifying moment: "I thought I tore something; tht's the way I felt at the time. Usually when I go down, I'm getting right back up, but it was an instance where I turned my knee and it popped, and I was just in pain where I couldn't move."
Yup. If you've ever played basketball on any level, pickup to pro, you've probably experienced something like that. It happened to Wilt Chamberlain in Game 7 of the 1969 NBA Finals. Fortunately for Pierce and the rest of the Celtics, Doc Rivers didn't pull a Butch van Breda Kolff and refuse to put Paul back into the game.
Paul Pierce, quote machine: To what does Pierce credit his miraculous recover and return? Why the Lord, our God, of course! Said Pierce: "I think God sent an angel down and said, 'Hey, you're going to be all right. You need to get back out there." First off, I hate it when professional athletes forward the notion that God cares about them or their team personally. Besides, I've read Stephen Colbert's book. I know God never gets involved in games he has money on. Hopefully, Paul was just kidding about all that "God sent and angel" stuff.
Update! Ray Allen: This is a comment left by Basketbawful reader Navid: "Did anyone see that timeout toward the end of the 1st quarter right after Ray Allen hit a layup and followed it up with a three? Did anyone besides me notice Ray Allen give that kid a stern forearm to the head, pushing the kid away, on his way to the bench? Pretty funny stuff." Anybody else catch that?
The Magic and Larry "There can be only one" commercial: I never thought I could get cold chills and a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach at the same time, but this new promo starring Magic Johnson and Larry Legend did the trick. I mean, first off, freaking cool! I love it! And it made me wish Wilt Chamberlain was still alive so he could do the split screen with Bill Russell (although maybe Russ will do it with Jerry West instead). But Larry, Larry, Larry...he looked bad, didn't he. I mean, bad even for Larry Bird.
Also, this one had the worst possible "acting" of any of the "There can be only one" commercials the NBA has produced so far. Not only did it have a right-off-the-cue-card feel to it, you could tell both men were concentrating with all their will power to stay on time.
Aw, the hell with it. It's still awesome. Here's the video, courtesy of Odenized.
Note: Did anybody else notice how they leaned Larry forward so his double-chin wouldn't show? Total fat girl angle shot move. Also, loved the synchronized blink at the end.
Update! The Larry O'Brien trophy decoration thingie: I forgot this on the first go around and was going to save it for Game 2. But damn, it was bad. And Basketbawful reader Jaz didn't let me off the hook. "How about the aesthetic abomination that is the big painted trophy on the floor? Ugh. And little trophies on all the uniforms and gear. And the 'artsy' shot of Kobe making love to the trophy. The NBA has made that ugly trophy into a golden calf. I guess David Stern should know that story, and how it ended. BTW, trial in Seattle, June 16! And Mike Breen forgot to shave." There's also a reader on TrueHoop who thinks the trophy caused one backcourt violation and one non-violation.
Oops! And so did Evil Ted. "Early in the game, officials called a backcourt violation on Gasol that wasn't a backcourt violation, why? Because Gasol's location in relation to the centerline was obscured by the fact that the Celtics have plastered an O'Brien trophy logo across the full width of the court. If a bad call relating to the midcourt line is made at a critical point in a critical game, expect to hear more about this unecessary logo. Later in the game, KG saved a ball from going into the back court and the Celtics scored. It was a critical play and it looked like KG's foot stayed on the correct side of the center line, but there's no precise way to tell. Why? Cause there's no centerline, that's why. In a related story, the Patriots will be spraypainting both Gillette stadium goallines with giant Lombardi trophies. There won't be any way to tell if a player breaks the plane, but at least the field will look cool."