Five days to rest their old legs. Celtics Coach Doc Rivers was thankful for such a span, glad his veteran lineup could catch a blow. "We're not the youngest team in the world," he said earlier this week.
But in Thursday's 102-89 loss to the Lakers in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, the Celtics struggled to get those legs moving.
Rivers denied that the layoff hurt his team too much, saying, "It could have, but, you know, no."
Yet for all the areas the Lakers dominated, they did so by being quicker and more aggressive.
"They attacked us the entire night," Rivers said. "I don't think we handled it very well."
The Lakers had a 34-17 rebounding edge going into the fourth quarter, which stood at 42-31 at the buzzer. "They killed us on the glass," Rivers said.
They cruised down the hardwood on fastbreaks with green jerseys too far in chase.
"It seemed like every time down we took the ball out of the net," Celtics guard Rajon Rondo said.
The Lakers sliced to the basket often and with ease, building a 48-30 points-in-the-paint margin. "I didn't think we handled the dribble penetration well at all," Rivers said.
And even if they missed, the Lakers usually didn't miss twice, holding a 16-0 advantage on second-chance points, a stat Lakers Coach Phil Jackson called "remarkable."
"The thing is, you can't ease into the game, especially in the Finals," said Celtics forward Paul Pierce, who had a team-high 24 points.
The Celtics didn't seem to, as the game was tight through the first quarter. But just before it ended, Jackson, whose starters were saddled with foul trouble, subbed in the young legs of Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar.
After Pierce missed two free throws, Farmar drove past the Celtics defense for a layup.
After Pierce missed a long three-point jumper, Brown copied Farmar's driving layup with one of his own.
Like that, the Lakers were up five.
By halftime, as the trends continued, the lead was nine. By the end of the third, after an 11-2 Lakers run, the lead was 20 points.
Lakers forward Pau Gasol, who had 23 points and 14 rebounds, seemed much faster to the ball than Kevin Garnett — and, for that matter, faster than the much younger Celtics forwards, Kendrick Perkins and Glen Davis.
In the end, the Celtics, who had been giving up 91.4 points a game coming in, saw the Lakers reach the triple-digit mark, which surprised even Kobe Bryant.
"That's not something we were hanging our hats on, to score 100 points," said the Lakers guard, who finished with a game-high 30 points.
Perkins was left searching for answers.
"They had the same layoff as us," he said. "I don't know what to say."
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