BOSTON — Kurt Rambis says he sick of seeing the Kevin McHale clothesline from 1984 NBA finals. Well, he may get a reprieve because the Lakers are now on the let's-get-physical clock.
Yesterday was an uncomfortable day for the Lakers, and not just because they lost Game 1 on Thursday.
Questioning one's execution is one thing. Questioning one's manhood is another. Yesterday, the most prevalent storyline was similar to old Celts-Lakers issues. The Celtics were tougher and rougher Thursday night.
Ex-Laker great James Worthy was on a Boston radio station saying it. His former teammate, Magic Johnson, said it on a national radio program.
But we are not surprised because this is the Celtics' strength, playing East Coast maul-ball when necessary. The Celtics are noted for their defense (90.3 points allowed per game).
The Lakers, on the other hand, are an offensive dynamo with their "triangle offense," which spreads the floor. They have six players who put up more than 100 3-pointers, compared to four for the Celtics.
"When we shoot well, we are hard to beat," said Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic. "We had a lot of open shots that just missed. We have to make more of them against a team like the Celtics."
Kobe Bryant was buying into Vujacic's theory. That's convenient because he was a miserable 9-of-26 shooting.
Bryant said the vast majority of his misses were due to bad luck than rugged Celtics defense.
"I get those again, I'm foaming at the mouth. I want those looks again," said Bryant.
But Bryant did admit the Celtics were not going to let him drive to the hoop. They want him shooting outside. He knows that. The Celtics know that.
Despite what the league MVP says, maybe the Celtics' interior defense kept Bryant from even attempting to drive to the basket, "settling" for outside shots instead. He was credited with only two shots from in close, a missed lay-up and a dunk.
"Kobe's a great player. He will try do some things and create more opportunities near the basket," said Celts forward James Posey. "Obviously, we'd rather he stay on the outside. That is sort of what our defense is about."
If there is a statistic that relates to physical play it is probably rebounding. And the Celtics dominated that department, 46-33.
That's no surprise.
But the Lakers won't concede the physical "dominance" to the Celtics just yet.
"I don't know if it was a thing for the entire game, but I do think there were some stretches where there was some rebound opportunities and some loose ball opportunities where their guys wanted the ball more than our guys did," said guard Derek Fisher, probably the roughest player on the Lakers.
"I don't know if that was specifically just being more physical or just having more desire in that situation."
The one Lakers player who personifies the "soft" tag it is Pau Gasol.
He didn't think the C's were overly aggressive.
"I don't think (the Celtics) are more physical than Utah. I don't think they're more physical than San Antonio," said Gasol, referring to two teams L.A. has already beaten in the playoffs. "I remember in Utah, I remember in San Antonio, our first game we struggled. We struggled a little bit to get a feel of how it was going to be in Game 1, but we really bounced back."
My hunch is the Lakers bounce back big, particularly Bryant, who will try to get his 10 to 15 free throws. And guys like Gasol will probably rebound with more tenacity than they have in their basketball lives.
But will it be enough? Will it take them out of their comfort zone, which is shooting?
E-mail Bill Burt at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can read his blog, "Burt Talks Sports," at blogs.eagletribune.com/sports.
Bryant's Game 1 struggles
Mr. Outside: 24 of his 26 shots were from outside
3-pointers: 0 for 3
Not getting to line: 6 for 6 free three throws.
Rare poor shooting: You have to go back 25 playoff games (Game 3 in 2006 vs. Phoenix) for a worse shooting night for Bryant than his 9 for 26.
Defense by committee: Paul Pierce, James Posey and Ray Allen all covered Bryant, while he was also frequently double-teamed.