Forget the NBA finals. Kevin Garnett looked as if he would have struggled in the slam dunk contest.
Yet the Boston Celtics insist there is nothing wrong with their power forward’s health.
“I just thought he struggled,” coach Doc Rivers said. “He had one of those nights. We all have them. We’re just not used to seeing him have them unless there’s something wrong. But he’s fine, I can guarantee you that.”
Garnett certainly didn’t look it in Game 1. His 7-of-16 shooting night included a botched layup in the fourth quarter with nobody around, and an attempted dunk of an offensive rebound that was blocked by the front of the rim.
“It happens. I’ve done that throughout the course of my 12 years. We all miss layups, we all miss shots, you’ve just got to keep playing,” teammate Paul Pierce said.
Garnett’s struggles didn’t end on offense. He was badly outplayed by counterpart Pau Gasol, who had 23 points and 14 rebounds in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 102-89 victory.
Garnett missed last year’s playoffs with a knee injury that required surgery, and he’s far from the tenacious force who was the Defensive Player of the Year when Boston won the NBA title two years ago.
But don’t blame the knee – or any other ailments – for the way he played Thursday.
“No, I just thought honestly he got so hyped up about the game yesterday he almost took himself out,” Rivers said. “He was trying to slow himself down. He didn’t have a great game. But no, he’s fine health-wise and all that.”
BROWN’S BOAST: Hard to believe, but the team that dominated Game 1 was supposed to be the underdog in the NBA finals.
At least, that’s what one Lakers player seemed to think.
The way backup guard Shannon Brown made it sound, everyone from the sports books to the sports bars was picking the Boston Celtics in the series.
“Obviously people were calling me, trying to get me hyped, telling me that nobody had us winning and all this, that and another, but you can’t pay attention to that,” Brown said. “Now, it’s a different story.”
The Lakers are the defending NBA champions and were the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, while Boston made a surprising run to the finals as the No. 4 seed in the East.
And while the Celtics beat the Lakers two years ago for the championship, they were not considered the favorites in this series. At worst, it was considered an even matchup.
The edge would now seem to go to Los Angeles after its 102-89 victory in the opener. Even the doubters Brown believes are out there might have to agree.
“We’ve got to go out there and do what we have to do to prove everybody wrong. And it’s really not about them. It’s about us,” Brown said. “Not too many teams get a chance to win back-to-back championships or even be in the finals three consecutive years. That’s something special in itself.”
47 and OH NO: If the Boston Celtics weren’t already aware of Phil Jackson’s undefeated record when winning Game 1, they are now.
And they seem sick of getting asked about it.
“It’s come up several times,” guard Ray Allen said. “First thing I heard when I got here the day before yesterday. It has nothing to do with me.”
Not five minutes later, he could hardly keep from rolling his eyes after he was asked again if he’d heard the Jackson stat.
“Yeah, I’ve heard it, 1,000 times,” Allen said.
Jackson’s teams in Chicago and Los Angeles are 47-0 when they win the opener of a playoff series. His counterpart was asked Friday if he knew that.
“Uh huh,” Doc Rivers said.
“It’s like I told our guys, because I assumed that this would come up. I don’t know the record. I said also the last time we were in the finals, no team had ever come down from 24 in the second half. At some point, it happened.”
Rivers was referring to Game 4 of the 2008 finals, when the Celtics roared back from a 45-21 deficit for a 97-91 victory. No team had ever overcome more than a 15-point deficit after the first quarter.
CALLING ALL-STARS: The NBA finals are just under way, and already Los Angeles is looking ahead to its next big basketball event.
Staples Center was awarded the 2011 NBA All-Star game last year during the finals. On Sunday, the logo for the weekend will be unveiled at a press conference before Game 2.
Former Lakers forward James Worthy and Clippers guard Eric Gordon are scheduled to participate.
The 60th All-Star game will be played Feb. 20 at Staples Center, also the site of the 2004 game. It is the record fifth time Los Angeles has hosted the weekend.
SOCCER RON: Ron Artest has World Cup fever, even if he isn’t quite sure how he caught it.
“Everybody on my team is a soccer fan, so I’m turning into a soccer fan,” the Lakers’ defensive stopper said Friday. “I don’t even know who I’m cheering for. Everybody is playing soccer these days, though. My kids play soccer, not me.”
Artest, who grew up in Queens, didn’t get into the beautiful game in his youth. He was more enthralled by the ugliness of basketball played against his father, who infamously shoved and swatted his son in pickup games, prompting a lifelong love of physical hoops for the younger Artest.
“Soccer hasn’t reached the ghetto yet,” said an upbeat Artest, who scored 15 points and played solid defense on Paul Pierce in his NBA finals debut. “We need more grass in the ghetto. All we’ve got is basketball nets and shorts.”
Artest also joked that he’s hoping to see more golf in urban areas.
“We need a Tiger Woods from Compton with his pants sagging down, playing golf,” Artest cracked.