Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Rivalry Renewed

Here we go again, the battle basketball fans have been waiting for, and we all get to witness possibly for the last time. LeBron taking on Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in another playoff series, the fifth in the last seven postseasons. It’s what ‘The Truth” and KG agreed to come to Brooklyn for, the chance to knock off Miami to make their third Finals appearance. Even though the uniforms might have changed, there is still no love lost between these old rivals.

“We thought when we played them in Boston, we thought we buried them,” said Dwayne Wade with a smirk, when asked if he ever thought he would ever see Pierce and Garnett after the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals. “Then we got Ray, Doc left and we were like ‘yeah,’ but here they go.” [CBSSports.com]

If anyone should feel like they ‘buried’ the Celtics two years ago, it should be LeBron James, not D-Wade who nearly got swept in 2010 by Boston (4-1). He then recruited LBJ and Bosh to South Beach and on their way to the Finals in 2011; Dwayne pulled Rajon Rondo to the floor causing him to dislocate his right elbow. Say what you will about that play, but it changed the series as Miami won in five games. Fast forward to 2012, a shortened lockout season, gave the Celtics new life and with a healthy Rondo (but no Jeff Green, plus a weak bench), they pushed the Heat to seven games in a battle of two best teams to come out of the East in the previous three seasons. We all remember the outcome, but once again it was James who led the way not Wade.

These days it seems like Mr. Wade is taking a chapter out of Shaq’s book on how to play the least amount of games during the regular season. In the 2012-2013 season he played 69 games, while this past season he only could get on the court in 54 games. That’s very impressive for the ‘young’ superstar and captain of the current champs. Good luck chasing around Joe Johnson in this series, lets see if those surgically repaired knees can keep up.

Meanwhile Paul Pierce almost single-handedly sent the Nets past the Raptors on Sunday afternoon after blocking Kyle Lowry’s attempted floater that would have sent them home. He knows what it takes in key situations in the playoffs, especially late in a fourth quarter in a deciding game.

“I consider myself a great competitor who wants to be in those moments, who wants to play against who people call the best,” said Pierce. [ESPN.com]

Kevin Garnett, also knows this may be his last chance to get to the Finals, and he has to get through the champs to get there.

“That’s what it is, man,” said KG. “The best is playing the best.” [ESPN.com]

In their previous four battles James has seen the likes of Pierce in the playoffs, they have both beaten each other twice in a playoff series. In 25 overall postseasons games head to head the two ‘buried’ superstars lead 13-12 over Bron-Bron. Tonight begins the quest to not only break the tie, but its also one step closer for a chance to play for the Larry O’Brien trophy. For what ever it’s worth Brooklyn beat Miami four straight times this season. No other team other than your Celtics (2-1) beat the Heat more than once in 2013-2014. For the first time in James’ career his team was swept in the regular season. If any other team in the East could challenge the world champs, it’s the black and grey from B.K.

Walter Ray faces his former teammates for the first time in the postseason, and his diminished role pretty much makes him the Heat’s new Mike Miller without the bad back. The Nets have a deeper bench and better guards, while their length will cause issues in the paint. Simply put Brooklyn is built pretty well to take on Miami. The eight-day lay-off couldn’t have helped much, considering other than LeBron, no one played particularly well against the Bobcats. Despite the hype, Pierce is well aware of what’s to come in this series.

“I rank LeBron as one of the greatest players to ever play the game,” said ‘The Truth’ “When you play the best, as a competitor, you want those moments.” [ESPN.com]

LBJ once said that the Pierce was one of the toughest player he has gone up against, and by far his biggest rival. They both relish at every opportunity to play against each other, and this series will be no different. In four games this season Pierce is averaging well over 21-points a game. Look for it to be a long and entertaining series. The fire still burns even though they both know that it's never personal when it comes to basketball.

“We are aiming for the same prize and only one can get it you know? It’s always going to be a dislike there,” says Pierce. “That’s nothing that has carried over off the court. I think the dislike for me, LeBron, Miami or Cleveland, it was all based on what we both chasing, and that’s about it.” [CBSSports.com]

Folks, let the chase begin as they write one more chapter in their already great rivalry.

Joel Pavón

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