(Sports Network) - The Boston Celtics aren't used to being on the wrong side of history but after losing Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday, the C's will have to overcome one of the most daunting streaks in league annals if they hope to win a record 18th championship.
The Los Angeles Lakers are nearly unbeatable when winning Game 1 of a playoff series, holding a 59-7 mark in such scenarios. Even more staggering, their head coach Phil Jackson, has never lost a postseason set when his team takes Game 1, holding a mind-blowing 47-0 mark.
The Celtics hope to take the first step in halting that impressive run when Game 2 of the finals tips off tonight from Staples Center in Los Angeles, where the Lakers have won 12 straight playoff games.
Kobe Bryant's 30-point, seven-rebound, six- assist performance was a near afterthought to his strong defensive effort as the Lakers suffocated the Celtics, 102-89, in Game 1.
"We just want to win the series," Bryant said. "We have to be ready for their adjustments in Game 2."
Bryant hounded Boston point guard Rajon Rondo and his highlight-reel block of Tony Allen in the third quarter was part of a spurt that pushed Los Angeles' edge as high as 20 by the end of that frame.
"You don't want to overcommit too much, but it's a full-time job because he's very smart," Bryant said of guarding Rondo, who was spectacular against Orlando in the Eastern Conference finals. "He gets after it quite a bit. It takes a great deal of energy and effort to key in on him."
Paul Pierce led Boston with 24 points, Kevin Garnett added 16 and Rondo registered 13 points and eight assists. Pierce passed Tom Heinsohn for seventh on the Celtics' all-time playoff scoring list in defeat.
"I thought they were by far the more physical team, they were more aggressive. I thought they attacked us the entire night," said Boston head coach Doc Rivers. "Our defense was horrible."
Pau Gasol added 23 points and 14 rebounds, Ron Artest chipped in with 15 points and Andrew Bynum, a question mark entering this series, not only started but was effective with 10 points and six rebounds while playing over 28 minutes. Bynum had fluid drained from his right knee earlier in the week.
"I'm going to play no matter what," Bynum said. "I've made that decision already. It's important for me especially to go out and get easy buckets for us and just protect our rotation and really understand how I can hurt this team going out and getting easy buckets. Defensively taking up space, clogging the lane and being able to help out like that."
The Celtics will need to find a way to deal with Bryant on both ends of the floor if they hope to get back in the set. Rondo especially will have to find a way to combat Bryant's length.
"He's a good defensive player," Rondo said. " We all knew that. He did a great job on me. A lot of what they do on both ends keys off Kobe."
Boston must also deal with the impending loss of lead assistant Tom Thibodeau, who accepted a three-year deal to coach the Chicago Bulls on Saturday. The Chicago Tribune reported that the hire will be made official following the conclusion of the finals.
"It won't have an impact," Rivers said. "Right now we're focused on basketball. I can't confirm it. I hope it's true, but we're not going to comment on it, I can tell you that. We're focused on the NBA Finals. There's two teams. There's the Lakers and the Celtics, and that's what we're going to keep the focus on."
The 2010 NBA Finals marks the Lakers' 31st trip to the championship series and Boston's 21st appearance with 12 of those overlapping in clashes between the NBA's two most storied franchises.
Their finals history dates all the way back to the 1958-59 season when the Lakers still called Minneapolis home. Boston and the game's ultimate winner, Bill Russell, dominated the early years of the rivalry. The Red Auerbach-era Celtics took the Lakers all seven times they met in the finals, although the Jerry West, Elgin Baylor fueled LA clubs did manage to take Boston to seven games on three different occasions.
The rivalry lay dormant for 15 years until Larry Bird and Magic Johnson "saved" the NBA by bringing their own storied college rivalry to the pros. Bird avenged his loss at Indiana State to Magic's Michigan State Spartans in the 1979 NCAA Finals when the Celtics got past the Lakers in seven games to win the 1983-84 NBA title.
Johnson and his Lakers responded the next season as LA finally beat Boston in the finals for the first time. Magic also won the rubber match two years later before the rivalry went cold again, this time for 20 years as the Celtics struggled mightily in the post-Bird era.
Boston basketball chief Danny Ainge re-ignited things by acquiring both Garnett and Ray Allen before the 2007-08 season. The two All-Stars teamed with Pierce to create the "Boston Three Party" and the Celtics were relevant again. A 17th Boston championship was the result as Garnett and his Celtics got the best of Bryant's Lakers.
A rematch could have been in the offing last season but a knee injury to Garnett derailed any hopes of a Celtics repeat. Instead, LA earned its 15th championship by taking Orlando in five games.
The Lakers and Celtics have combined to win 32 of the NBA's 63 titles coming into this series.
Game 3 of this best-of-seven series is scheduled for Tuesday in Boston.