Monday, May 18, 2020

OTD: Paul Pierce, Celtics outduel LeBron James, Cavaliers in Game 7 classic

It was one of the many chapters in the saga that was the Paul Pierce vs LeBron James rivalry that lasted well over a decade.

In their first postseason battle, LeBron James and the Cavs were the reigning defending Eastern Conference champs, while Paul Pierce was on his way to the NBA Finals to raise a 17th banner for the Celtics -- their first since 1986. It was 12-years ago today that the stage was set for a winner take all Game 7 at The Garden.

On May 18, 2008 and with the Eastern Conference Semifinals all knotted at 3-3, it was Pierce and James who put on a show, while the Detroit Pistons awaited the winner in the Eastern Conference Finals.

James went 14-of-29 from the field (48.3 percent shooting) for 45 points, to go along with 6 assists and 5 rebounds. Delonte West was the only other Cavalier to score in double-figures with 15 points. Paul Pierce on the other hand, finished with 41 points, while shooting 56.5 percent from the field (including 4-of-6 from behind the arc) and 11-12 from the free-throw line, as the Celtics outlasted the Cavaliers 97-92 to advance.

With Kevin Garnett (13 points, 13 rebounds), Rajon Rondo (8 points, 8 assists) and Ray Allen (4 points) all shooting a combined 10-of-30 for the game, it was Pierce (13-of-23 from the field) and a little help from P.J. Brown (10 points, 6 rebounds) off the bench that proved to be the difference that day.

According to Boston Sports Info, this was only the second Game 7 in NBA history to have opposing players score 40-plus points.

Boston would go on to take care the Pistons in six games to advance to the Finals for the first time since 1987, and also beat their long time rivals the Los Angeles Lakers to capture the franchise's only championship in the past 34 years.

Pierce and James would meet one another in the playoffs on four more occasions before "The Truth" retired in 2017.

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of The Associated Press

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