Commentary

Lakers won in the first 30 seconds

Updated: June 4, 2010, 6:33 PM ET
By Rick Fox | Special to ESPNLosAngeles.com

Rick Fox
Fox
Editor's note: Rick Fox offers a unique view of the latest NBA Finals showdown between the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics, having worn the uniforms of both teams. He was a Celtic from 1991 to '97 and a Laker from 1998 to 2004, winning three championships in purple and gold.

This game was not decided in the fourth quarter or the first half or even the first quarter.

It was decided in the first 30 seconds, when Ron Artest and Paul Pierce clashed and were each hit with a technical.

Right then and there, Artest reminded me and his Lakers teammates what they were lacking when they lost to Boston in the 2008 NBA Finals.

The Celtics were the bullies back then, but they were the ones who got popped in the mouth Thursday night. And when that happens to a bully, he is not so much the bully anymore.

Along with Artest, who respected both ends of the court, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum brought a high degree of physicality to the court.

Pau was criticized for failing to do so in 2008, but he didn't shy away from anyone Thursday night.

I've been watching Kevin Garnett intimidate people in the league for years. It's always interesting to watch someone like that, who is used to being the intimidator, when he discovers opposing players are reacting differently, are fighting back.

When the Celtics saw those tactics weren't going to work, they suddenly realized they were going to have play. So what was the game plan?

They didn't have an effective one. I'm not going to say Boston looked like an old team, but they certainly didn't look like the team that got this far in the playoffs.

As for the Lakers, they looked like they were emerging from their locker room in Boston for Game 7 of the 2008 Finals. It was as if they were still carrying the pain they felt in Boston's title-clinching Game 6, still remembering the celebration that went on around them, still ready to pick up where they had left off. There was no forgetting that game for the Lakers, and the memories seemed fresh.

The Lakers are the defending champions, but they weren't acting like that. They seemed to approach this as if their title in 2009 never happened, as if they were the underdogs with something to prove.

The Celtics, on the other hand, came out Thursday night as if they were too cool for school. I didn't see any urgency.

They'd better have it in Game 2, although it might already be too late. I believed before the tipoff that the team that won Game 1 was going to win the series. And nothing I saw Thursday night changed my mind.

Perhaps the most important moment for the Lakers occurred well before Thursday's opening tipoff. It was when two and a half ounces of fluid was drained from Bynum's injured knee.

As a result, he was able to be a force in the paint. He played 28 minutes, scored 10 points and had six rebounds. But just as important was his mere presence, because it freed up Pau.

Kobe was Kobe, Artest was huge, Pau's contributions could be measured by the ton and Bynum contributed more than could have been hoped for.

All that translated into three key elements in this victory: The Lakers' dominance in the paint, their defense and their bench.

And it all started in that first 30 seconds.