LOS ANGELES -- Someone smarter than me, give me some help here. Because I've spent hours thinking about this, trying to come up with an answer or even an excuse, and I can't do it. For the life of me, I can't understand why the Boston Celtics played Game 1 of the NBA Finals like it didn't matter. Most important game of the season, and the Celtics couldn't be bothered.
Couldn't be bothered to rebound. Couldn't be bothered to chase down loose balls. Couldn't be bothered to compete.
The Celtics have no clue, either. They don't know why it happened, but they do know this -- they know it did happen. And that's a good thing, because if the Celtics truly believed that they'd played Game 1 with the respect it deserves, then they'd be beyond help. Because it would happen again Sunday in Game 2.
But they know better. The Celtics know they treated Game 1 like a piece of junk mail. They mailed it in.
"Looking at the film," Celtics center Kendrick Perkins said Friday, "we didn't do nothing with effort."
Then it worked, this motivational ploy by Celtics coach Doc Rivers. He had his film crew splice together a montage of 50-50 balls from Game 1, one after another after another. Here's a long rebound. There's a deflected pass into open space. Here goes a ball rolling across the floor. Let's see who got it.
If you watched Game 1, you don't need the film montage. You already know who got it.
"That film clipping of 50-50 balls," Boston point guard Rajon Rondo was saying, shaking his head. "I don't think we won none of 'em. They got all the loose balls. They dove on the floor first. You don't win like that."
|Schedule and Results|
Game 1: Lakers 102, Celtics 89
Game 2: 8 p.m. ET - Sunday, June 6 (L.A.)
Game 3: 9 p.m. ET - Tuesday, June 8 (Boston)
Game 4: 9 p.m. ET - Thursday, June 10 (Boston)
Game 5: 8 p.m. ET - Sunday, June 13 (Boston)
Game 6: 9 p.m. ET - Tuesday, June 15 (L.A.)
Game 7: 9 p.m. ET - Thursday, June 17 (L.A.)
No, but you lose like this. You lose by 13. You lose by being outrebounded 42-31 and by falling behind by 20 points in the third quarter. You lose by being outscored 16-0 on second-chance points.
You lose, and you lose badly. And people call you passive. People call you soft.
"They would be right," Rivers said. "We were."
That's what Rivers told the media on Friday, but it's also what he told his team. He called them soft. He said they played Game 1 like they were in Los Angeles on vacation. He told them that, for a contest featuring 54 fouls and 67 free throws, it would be inaccurate to describe Game 1 as "physical."
"I didn't think that was a physical game," Rivers said. "I thought one team was physical. We were not physical. We fouled a lot -- we fouled a lot because they were standing next to the basket and we had no choice."
So the Celtics get it. They know they lost Game 1 for the most egregious of reasons. They weren't outshot or outsmarted. They were out-hungered.
"I expect a tougher game on Game 2," Gasol said. "More aggressive as individuals, as Kevin probably will be. I'm sure Rondo will try to be more aggressive. Ray Allen, if he stays out of foul trouble, he'll probably try to be more aggressive. Rasheed Wallace ..."
Gasol could have gone on and on, but the media kept bringing Gasol back to Garnett, who looked washed up in Game 1. I wrote about it after the game myself. Garnett missed two dunks because he simply couldn't get above the rim, not even at 6-foot-11. Gasol unintentionally insulted Garnett further on Friday by calling him, essentially, an old man.
|Pau Gasol and the Lakers got after every loose ball in Game 1. (Getty Images)|
Gasol said that from the podium in the interview room, which is piped into various parts of the Staples Center underbelly. I'm guessing it was piped into the Celtics' locker room, because less than 10 minutes later Garnett seemed to know about it. And he seemed furious.
"I'm not going to get into what Pau says," Garnett said. "I'm not getting into the bulls--- that's going on. That's it."
Garnett wasn't simply angry Friday because of Pau -- Garnett was going to be angry anyway. So were his teammates. They were mad, and they were embarrassed, about Game 1. Not just the loss, but the way it happened. It's not unfair to say the Celtics dogged it, because they rolled over Thursday night and played dead.
"You saw it in guys' faces, you heard it -- it wasn't a typical locker-room loss," said Celtics captain Paul Pierce. "You can't deal with it when you lose the way we did. We're down 20, they beat us to the hustle plays. That don't sit well with me at all."
Or with other Celtics.
"There were some angry people in there," he said.
So we wait for Game 2, and for Boston's response. Expect an emphatic one.