After his post-game sideline interview, Kobe Bryant walked up to Ron Artest who was sitting on the bench, took his teammate’s hand, pounded him on the chest, gathered his head to his, and whispered something in his ear. Maybe Bryant welcomed him to his first NBA Finals appearance. Maybe he commended Artest for a great job on guarding Paul Pierce, or a great job on his defense in general (it doesn’t get any better than Ron Artest refusing to give up space to anyone he is guarding). In whatever combination of words or actions, the sentiment was clear — thank you.

It has been two years since the Lakers folded over themselves in Boston, doe-eyed and filled with excitement to have made it to the NBA Finals when the future and direction of their team had been so unclear when that 2007-2008 season began. It has been two years since Bryant’s greatness was reduced by a Celtic defense that maimed his ability to carry the team to a victory; two years since Pau Gasol was deemed too soft and weak to play against the likes of physical players like Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins; and two years since Andrew Bynum had to sit in a suit on the Laker bench, knowing that his mere presence on the court would probably help his team against Boston’s beating. That was then, however, and tonight was now.

Unlike their 2008 version, this Laker team was prepared to face the hardnosed, defense-first minded Celtics. With double technicals issued to Ron Artest and Paul Pierce 27 seconds into the game (for fighting for space under the Laker basket), physicality had shown up early, but from the unlikelier team.

“The Lakers were clearly the more physical team,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “They were more aggressive. They attacked us the entire night.”

Out-rebounding the road team 42-31, with 12 offensive rebounds that led to a 16-0 advantage on second chance points, not to mention keeping the Celtics to 43% shooting, the Lakers out-hustled and out-muscled the Celtics right out of Staples Center.

The focus on the defensive end was obvious in Derek Fisher and Pau Gasol taking charges. The defensive effort was apparent in Jordan Farmar stealing the ball from Rajon Rondo when he wasn’t looking, just a few seconds after the much-heralded guard caught an inbounds pass. The defense was in Ron Artest and Lamar Odom harassing Kevin Garnett into two straight missed layups. The defense was in refusing to give up possessions (repeat: 12 offensive rebounds).

Pau Gasol, undeniable in his offensive skills, was criticized for allowing Kevin Garnett to bully him on both ends of the court, but tonight, it was the Spaniard who got the best of his primary defender. Scoring 23 points on 8-14 shooting, collecting 14 boards, 3 blocks and 3 assists, Gasol was so much more of what he wasn’t in 2008 — confident and aggressive, not to mention resilient. He played all but 86 seconds of the game.

“Just the little actions that represent not backing down,” Phil Jackson said of Gasol, “getting hit, taking the blow, absorbing it, not reacting to it one way or the other.”

Helping Gasol on the frontline was Andrew Bynum. The young center, whose last procedure was rendered ineffective at keeping the swelling in his right knee at bay, played a good 28 minutes and produced 10 points on 4-6 shooting, 6 rebounds, and was another source of length on the court that the Celtics could not contend with. Asked about his condition after the game, Bynum cited that adrenaline helped in masking the pain. He is not being asked to dominate the game on either end, but his mere presence is an advantage for this Laker team who has thrived on the production of their big men in the post-season.

Leading the charge, as always, was Kobe Bryant, with 30 points on 10-22 shooting, seven rebounds, six assists and a steal. Whether it was Bryant’s aggressiveness at attacking the basket or the Celtics’ lack of defensive execution, the Lakers captain didn’t settle for perimeter shots all evening. He scored on layups, 3-4 foot floaters, and even a dunk or two (one a fast break alley-oop from partner in crime Derek Fisher), forcing his guards of the evening, Ray and Tony Allen, into a collective nine personal fouls. And it wouldn’t be a game without a Bryant dagger, tonight’s in the form of a three-pointer in the final seconds.

Points in the paint were another huge advantage for the home team, 48-30.

“It was a parade down the paint,” Doc Rivers told reporters, and not just from the big men. The entire Laker backcourt, Fisher, Bryant, Brown and Farmar, all drove to the hoop by way of open lanes, without a green uniform in sight.

Overall, the Lakers were their own supporting cast because they did just that, supported each other. With Odom in foul trouble, Gasol and Bynum were there playing quality minutes with little rest. With Bryant and Fisher in foul trouble, Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic and Shannon Brown came in to play defense, run the offense and maintain and even increase the lead.

With the lead dwindling down bit by bit in the fourth quarter, Lakers captains Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher reportedly reminded their team to stay focused. In essence, this togetherness, this collective effort and attitude, whether the clock is running or not, is what keeps this Laker team strong.

Much has happened in two years — personnel has changed a bit, a championship was won, and the weak and soft appear fortified. Missing a title by two wins two seasons ago is something the Lakers have not forgotten. However, “In order to move on,” Lamar Odom said in the locker room, “you have to put the past behind you.” That 2008 Laker team was ecstatic to get to the NBA Finals, but this 2010 squad won’t be happy until they’ve beaten one of the best to be crowned the league’s best, and that makes all the difference.

Pre-Game Thoughts: We asked for a rematch and we’re getting it. We want revenge, and here’s the opportunity. LET’S GO LAKERS!

Half-Time Thoughts: It was a close game to start, slowed down by the abundance of fouls called (28 already), but a spurt that began with Ron Artest’s three has given the Lakers momentum.

Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: Refs — for calling 54 fouls!

Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: Team L.A., for being the intimidators rather than the intimidated, for being aggressive rather than passive, and for letting this Boston Celtics team know that if they want their championship back, they won’t have a soft team to take it from.

  • si pepe

    yeah! thats what im talking about..if we continue playing like this and the we scare off the “green team’ it would in 4 rather than 5. God bless the team and the family of supporters..:)

  • si pepe

    yeah! thats what im talking about..if we continue playing like this and the we scare off the “green team’ it would end in 4 rather than 5 lakers yeah. God bless the team and the family of supporters..:)

  • Betto

    Even though I like what I saw in the Lakers, somehow it look good but awkward. Clearly the Lakers didn’t play a great game, Boston was it’s usual self, like I’ve said before they were the better team in 08. Two years later and the tables have turned, we are the better team with home court advantage. The Boston offense has slow down a lot even though they have somewhat of good defense, that’s only when they match up well against the other teams. Game 2 should be more interesting, I bet they’re gonna shoot better so the Lakers should be able to match and beat any kind of offense push they make. Boston against Orlando didn’t even score 100 on any of they’re wins, so all the Lakers have to do again is reach 100-110 for 3 more games, I’m getting excited as I type.. xD

    • lakerfan_4ever

      The best offense is a great defense…we shouldn’t be worry about scoring,we should be concern about making defensive stops.With that said,a stat that it jumps off is that Celtics are not a threat from the 3 pts range,(just one out of 10)like they were with Eddie house and James Posey….our chances look really good…I loved Kobe’s focus,Chris Rock looked like a fool….LOL

      • Betto

        Yeah your right. Lakers have to concentrate and make the same type of defense stops as they did in game 1, there was a few careless turnovers that seem like they were forced.. The Lakers have faced almost everything in the playoffs, went thru 3 point guards in, Westbrook, Deron Williams, Nash and then 3 point shooting from the Suns.
        That argument about who is the best point guard at the moment, I think it’s still Nash. Even though on those 2 first games where the Lakers beat them bad, he still got 13 and 15 assists on those 2 game unlike Rondo which only got 8 on game 1. Chris Rock did everything he could to at least put a little smirk on Kobe’s face but nothing. lol That reminded me of one of the Royal palace guards in England or the level of concentration from a Ninja.. Got nothing else but a 5th ring on his mind. Go Lakers!!

  • Kobe Bean Bryant

    “MAMA THERE GOES THAT MAN” !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • 242LakerFan

    NWA
    I have only one thing to add to this very thorough breakdown of last night’s game.
    48-0
    A word to the wise is sufficient.

    • pauer

      48-0?

      • Hater

        Yah Cause when Phil Jacksons team wins the first game of a series he is 47-0 so hes saying 48-0 now

  • UWEEE

    so who’s soft now!!!!!!!!!!! LETS GO LAKERS!!!!!

  • gugy

    WOW!!!!

    That’s all I have to say….

  • lakers2000

    I want the Lakers to sweep these clowns. I know it probably wont happen, but let’s beat them in five and get our trophy on their floor. Would that not be the sweetest revenge? Did you enjoy the game, justdogm1? That’s how real champions play, beeeaaatch!

  • e-bucher

    nice read

  • Rio Rondo College

    Big Deal! The Lakers won on their home floor. The Celts will take games 2,3,4, and 6. We will win the title in LA!!!!

    • Kobe24Bauer

      Loser, GTFOH….

    • 242LakerFan

      One word, Rio: 48-0

    • TOUCHING_MYSELF

      DELUSIONAL! SIMPLY DELUSIONAL! NO WONDER YOU’RE @ RIO HONDO ELEMENTARY SCHOOL! MOST CELD!CK FANS ARE THE SMARTEST IN THE RETARDED CLASS… YOU THOUGH, ARE THE DUNCE AMONGST THE GROUP!

      Here, let me spell it out for you so that your puny little pea brain won’t got overloaded, Kelly Bundy!

      Y
      O
      U

      G
      U
      Y
      S

      G
      O
      T

      O
      W
      N
      E
      D
      !
      !
      !
      !
      !

      NOW STFU AND GET THE FCUK OUT!!!!!!!

      GO LAKERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • xtro

      remember what i said. sweep.

    • lakerfan_4ever

      you probably blind because you didn’t see the ass beating that we just gave to your sorry @$$ team…but if you aren’t,that means that you are totally STUPID,which it makes more sense since you are a Celtic fan disconnected from reality…

    • Hater

      Get the hell out of here Rio go to your own site where u can feel good about yourself cause you will be with your kind and thats pieces of craps.

    • Toni

      Gotta love the dreamers! – Eventually they have to wake up and smell the coffee. … GO LAKERS!!!

      • TOUCHING_MYSELF

        Sadly, no they don’t. Some don’t EVER WAKE UP, especially those dumb@$$ inbred hillbillies from the North East.

  • Go – Lakers

    Did u watch the same game u retard? (Rio…..Bulllshittt….Bullshittt)
    Your not winning any games in LA moron. you got man handled idiot.

    • lakerfan_4ever

      please forgive Rio,he was watching game 1 from 2008…LMAO!!!

  • lakerville213

    cant relax…gotta defend home court…boston’s gonna bring their A game on sunday…the lakers gotta match that…

    “nothing else matters…”-kobe bryant

  • T-Dub

    I would love to go over to a Celtic blog to see how much they’re crying and to talk S-h-i-t! Does anyone know of any?

    • lakerman1

      Go to the Boston globe .com

    • JOSH IN DA 310

      go to boston.com and sign up a new account..im on there talking mad sht about them! they sure are pissed off

  • Sonnny

    Amare: Lakers got “Lucky” :)

    Freaking Celtics need and Paula and her Magic Wheelchair again i guess.

    Go Lakers

  • willmo

    Great game plan by Phil Jackson, he’s been here before in dealing with the Pistons and Knicks in the 90’s and so when you have a great leader in Kobe ala Jordan and an intimidating defender in Artest (Rodman) you can inspire your team to win.
    If the Lakers can keep this pace up by attacking the rim (drawing fouls), controlling the glass, leave the non shooter open (KG, Rondo, Tony Allen and Davis, playing uptempo as they did in the 3rd and bring that tenacity on defense, this will be over in 5 or 6. The Celtics looked tired in the 3rd when the Lakers really got the D going and went off running. Games 2, 3 and 4 are played every other day and that will not help the Celts. They got into trouble with Orlando when the schedule went to every other day games. Got to win game 2 and continue the intensity. Everytime these 2 teams have met since the ’08 finals, the Lakers have treated each game like a playoff and for that reason they have won 3 of the 4 times, the only loss without Kobe playing.

  • Robert

    Several things: Celtics are tired. They had a long season (with injuries, etc.), and had a post season second wind which brought them here. But their mojo is running out. It looked like, several times, that the Celtics were just watching as Kobe and others would make easy layups. That didn’t happen 2 years ago. They’re tired.
    .
    The Lakers can outrun the Celtics on fast break/ transition. I think that could and will be their strategy the next few games. Just make the Celtics run, and they’ll start to huff and puff by the 3rd quarter. Then go in for the kill. No Mercy. It’s time for the ‘reckoning’.
    .
    Sweep would be nice, but I won’t predict that. Also, the SBA (Stern Basketball Assoc.) would like to have at least 5 games for the $$$.
    .
    BTW, glad that Magic took back the ‘torch passing to LeBron’ garbage. Wilbon also jumped ‘back’ on the Lakers bandwagon, but it’s too late, guys. Y’all predicted LeChokealiers would win it all. ESPN will have to perform a magic act to backpedal and claim they ‘knew’ the Lakers would win it all (yes, some predicted Lakers as Champs in Lakers vs. Boston, but that’s after the LeJoke show). BTW, David Thorpe predicts Lakers Champs – his opinion is more valid than many of the media weenies. He’s a past and current coach, and knows the game better than others there.

    • daboss1848

      too many short series this year – sba (as you eloquently call it) needs a 7 game series. . .
      .
      here are the original pre-season predictions
      http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/preview2009/news/story?page=Predictions0910-NBAchamp
      .
      oh well

      • Hater

        no they dont if lakers take it quick thats fine with me

      • Robert

        Thanks, daboss. I guess they did mostly predict Lakers as champs. I think we probably got so bombarded with the LeBron hype this year (starting about December of last year, and building up until his fall) that it created this groundswell of “Cavs will win it all”. They should have stuck with their original predictions. Maybe it has been more of LeBron vs. Kobe, and ESPN’s (and Barkley’s) interest in the ‘torch passing’. I don’t think many of us here at TLN tolerate that.
        .
        Anyway, the Lakers have arrived (at the Finals), and I’m looking forward to that parade.

    • http://www.myspace.com/guszo gus26

      no way the lakers turn this into a fast paced series… that will play right into what boston wants to do… when the game is ragged and sloppy thats when rondo is at his best (go figure)… they love rondo on the break the lakers just need to do what they did in game 1 but execute just a little better.. out rebound and keep driving to the basket even if they get even more physical…

  • Mr.Laker

    Hey guys. This was a great win… but its only ONE win. Lets keep the intensity level where it is because Boston will come back hard on Sunday. We are the best team in the league, so lets prove it! LETS GO LAKESHOW!!!

    • mecka24

      k coach

  • http://thelakersnation.com/blog/category/original-articles/benchmob-beat/ Anna Gonda

    It was an EXCELLENT WIN! But like the Lakers say after every game, can’t get too high or too low, at least not yet. If they can anticipate Boston’s adjustments (as I’m sure there will be MANY), and build on what they did awesomely in GAME 1, the Lakers will be very tough to beat 4 times. It was just so gratifying to see their fight come out the way it did! I literally pumped my fist into the air when Ron and PP were duking it out under the basket, and yelled when Jordan just walked up and took that ball from the NBA’s new darling, Rondo.

    • Betto

      Ah yeah!! Ron Ron looked like he was ready to do Royal rumble on the Celtics, me likes that.. xD Like I a lot of people I talked to, that set the tone for the rest of the Lakers and the reffs. Excellent win indeed but the Lakers can do better. We all know what adjustments Boston is gonna make, it’s no secret. Be more physical with the Lakers and get more rebounds, they have to be ready for that. If they push, we push back!!

  • Hater

    Pierce is exactly what they call him PP(piss)

  • bdmf

    http://www.celticsblog.com/
    hahaha they all bitshin about the game
    gotta love the hate from celtics
    hahah lakersss threeeepeaaaat
    celtic fans suck, go laker faanns !

  • Minorkle

    For all the talk about the delicate Lakers, all the chatter about their fairly peaceful stroll through the finesse-riddled Western Conference, all the questions about the tall, lean Spanish guy (because, you know, Europeans haven’t always displayed the fortitude necessary to capture titles), it was the Celtics who appeared a bit dainty in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

  • si pepe

    i just simple dont like that “un-sports guy’ Simmons. guys, if you see him game two in our court, could you please pour some avocado shake into his computer? douschebag..

  • 242LakerFan

    Wow, guys. I was just listening to ESPN’s NBA Today podcast and Dr. Jack Ramsey, who’s been around basketball since the Naismith era, says Kobe is the best closer that the game has ever seen! See, the guys who know best know it!

  • JOSH IN DA 310

    Every true Laker fan should go to the Boston globe site at boston.com sign up a basic account and talk mad shit about those chowder head losers1 lets invade the est coast… Paul Revere saying ” The Lakers are coming! The LAKERS ARE COMING!” CHAAAAAAAAAAARGE!!!!!!!
    LETS GO

  • rynorod32