BOSTON (AP) - NBA finals veteran Derek Fisher and newcomer Pau Gasol helped Los Angeles overcome Kobe Bryant's quiet start, and the Lakers led the Boston Celtics 51-46 at halftime Thursday night in the renewal of the league's greatest rivalry.
Fisher scored 13 points and Gasol added 12 for Los Angeles, which was shooting 50 percent against the team that held opponents to the lowest field goal percentage during the regular season. The defense was good against Bryant, as the league's MVP was only 3-for-10 for eight points in the first half.
Boston's Kevin Garnett scored 16 points in the first half of his NBA finals debut, but wasn't getting much help from his two All-Star partners in their first time on the big stage. Ray Allen was only 2-of-8 from the field for six points, while Paul Pierce managed only three points while limited to 16 minutes after picking up three fouls.
The NBA finals returned to Boston for the first time since 1987, and they sounded as they did last time they were here. Cries of ``Beat L.A.! Beat L.A!'' the soundtrack of so many springs in the old Boston Garden, roared through the arena in the minutes before the tip, with many fans wearing white T-shirts adorned with chant.
The Celtics and Lakers are meeting in the finals for the 11th time and have combined for 30 NBA titles, led by Boston's league-leading 16. But the Celtics have been shut out since 1986, and haven't even played for a championship since the Lakers beat them a year later.
Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson is seeking his 10th title, which would pass the Celtics' Red Auerbach for most on the career list. Jackson won three rings with the Lakers from 2000-02, the last giving the franchise 14 championships.
The game was crucial to the Celtics, because Jackson-coached teams are 41-0 when they win the opener of a best-of-seven playoff series.
Both teams were eager to get back on the court after marathon layoffs by NBA standards. The Lakers hadn't played since eliminating the San Antonio Spurs last Thursday night in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals, and the Celtics finished their six-game victory over Detroit a night later.
``I don't know if it played in either team's favor. I would say that both teams would have probably preferred to play on Tuesday if we could have,'' Celtics coach Doc Rivers said before the game. ``But the rest was probably good for us.''
Boston's defense was ready, forcing Bryant to miss seven of his first eight shots and limiting him to four points in the first quarter. P.J. Brown's jumper with 28 seconds gave the Celtics a 23-21 lead, and they brought that lead to the second quarter after Kendrick Perkins blocked Gasol's shot with 3.9 seconds remaining.
Six straight points by Garnett had the Celtics up by five midway through the second, but Gasol, whose midseason acquisition from Memphis turned the Lakers from a good team to a title contender, had two dunks in a 10-2 spurt that gave Los Angeles a 45-42 lead.
The Celtics host Game 2 on Sunday night before the series moves to Los Angeles for Game 3 on Tuesday.

Top NBA Public Bets

#1 709 Utah Jazz  86%
#2 501 Toronto Raptors  81%
#3 508 Boston Celtics  79%
#4 705 Denver Nuggets  79%
#7 510 Houston Rockets  69%
#9 511 Miami Heat  64%

NBA Top Stories

Thumbnail Timberwolves vs. Kings Prediction Will the Kings cover as a home underdog tonight when they host the Timberwolves at 10:30PM ET?
Thumbnail Pacers vs. Rockets Prediction Are the Rockets a good bet to cover as a double-digit home favorite tonight when they host the Pacers at 9:30PM ET?
Thumbnail Heat vs. Mavericks Prediction Will the Heat knock off the Mavericks as a small road favorite tonight when the two teams meet at 8:30PM ET?
Thumbnail Hawks vs. Celtics Prediction With the Celtics playing on tired legs, will their matchup against the Hawks tonight fall under at 7:30PM ET?
Thumbnail Warriors vs. 76ers Prediction Will the 76ers cover as a home underdog versus the Warriors tonight at 7:00PM ET?

NBA Team Pages