BOSTON — As the game wore on, it began to feel like watching the same episode of SportsCenter again and again.
Each time the ball hit the rim, you simply knew either Pau Gasol or Andrew Bynum was coming away with the rebound, and more than likely was about to turn it into points.
It was the issue that cost the Celtics the NBA title two years ago. It was the biggest reason they fell short to the Miami Heat in the playoffs last season, and it became clear once again last night it would again be a tremendous problem down the stretch this season.
The Celtics, who lost 88-87 in OT, simply do not have the bodies to contend in the frontcourt.
Boston's struggling big men were once again toasted by the Lakers' bigs last night. The C's were out-rebounded 55-45, a stat that does not begin to illustrate the dominance.
Whether it was Gasol outworking the Celtics' front court for a putback, such as his tap-in with 9.8 to go in regulation, or Bynum outjumping three Celtics for a rebound and adding a hoop, it was trouble all night for the C's.
"People don't realize how big these two are," said Lakers forward Troy Murphy. "They touch the rim without jumping. With Bynum's size and Pau's skill it's tough for any team to match up."
That was certainly the case with the Celtics. Facing the Lakers with a frontcourt of Kevin Garnett, who looked older than ever last night, Jermaine O'Neal, who is well past his prime, and the likes of journeyman Chris Wilcox, Boston was totally outmatched.
Garnett looked old and soft around the rim, happy to settle for jump shots, O'Neal was once again a non-factor with just six rebounds in 32:56 and Wilcox grabbed just three rebounds in 12:49, and was stuffed by Murphy on a dunk attempt.
The Lakers' twin towers, on the other hand, were immense. Gasol scored 25 points, two off Kobe Bryant's game-high, and grabbed 14 rebounds while Bynum had 16 points to go with 17 rebounds. Even Murphy added nine boards.
Yes, that Troy Murphy. The Troy Murphy that could not get off the bench last season for the Celtics, playing sparingly in just 17 games.
"We talked about it before the game that with a longer team you have to hit them," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "I bet they got four or five rebounds when we had the inside position. They just reached over us."
But it was the way they did it, easily out-jumping and out-muscling the old and passive Celtics big men. From the onset the Laker guards were lobbing it to their bigs for dunks, and when the likes of KG dared venture inside the paint, he ended up being rejected by Gasol.
The Lakers finished with 24 second-chance points, compared to just 13 for the Celtics.
"We both have length and are able to stay active on the glass and play athletically," said Bynum. "When we are both rebounding, it's going to make it very hard for teams."
That was sure the case last night in Boston, but that was nothing new. It was the Laker big guys, not Kobe, who won them the Finals two years ago.
The big man situation was so dire that the topic of former Celtic Rasheed Wallace, who Rivers spoke to at the Duke/North Carolina game on Wednesday, was even raised. And Rasheed hasn't played since the 2010 NBA Finals.
"They are so long and so good," said Rivers. "I think we did a good job on Kobe, but every time we made a stop they got an offensive rebound."
Pierce an All-Star
While the Celtics suffered a tough loss to the Lakers last night, Boston captain Paul Pierce did have reason to celebrate before the game, as he was named an NBA All-Star for the 10th time, and for the fifth straight year.
"It's a great achievement for Paul," said Rivers. "Going in front of Larry (Bird on the Celtics' all-tie scoring list) is enough for one week, and to be named to the All-Star game is the cherry on top."
Pierce is averaging 18.4 points per game, and has found his groove of late.
But, unlike previous seasons, The Truth won't have any travel companions as ageless Ray Allen, struggling Garnett and Rajon Rondo, who has battled injury, were not named to the team. All four were All-Stars a season ago.
Rivers scoffed at the idea that having his battle-weary veterans resting at home instead of in Orlando is a good thing.
"I'd love for them all to be going," he said. "It's a great honor. Our record doesn't help. But I think the voting was way too early this season. They should have given it at least another week."