With Marquis Daniels injured and most of the Celtics' other bench guys either too big or too small to match up with opposing small forwards, Paul Pierce can see the writing on the wall. He's Boston's first, and pretty much only, option at the 3. So that means that Sunday afternoon will feature a whole lot of the C's captain chasing around one LeBron Raymone James.
But that's fine with him. Because if you know anything about Paul Pierce, you know he's made a career out of epic, unforgettable clashes with LBJ.
It's the King versus the captain, and it's been going on for eight years now. Here's a snapshot of some of the great moments:
Dec. 13, 2003: Back when both small forwards were virtual one-man teams with lackluster teammates (remember Mark Blount?), we witnessed an amazing one-on-one battle between the 25-year-old Pierce and the 18-year-old rookie James. The eventual Rookie of the Year went off for 37 points, including 16-for-18 on free throws; the veteran Celtic countered with 41 points, nine rebounds, six assists, four steals and two blocks. The C's won, 105-98.
Feb. 15, 2006: The Celtics and Cavaliers went to double overtime at the TD Garden. James played 54 of the game's 58 minutes, finishing with a triple-double (43 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists), while Pierce became the first Celtic since Larry Bird to score 50 in a single game. James fouled Pierce in the final second to give the Celtics captain two free throws and force OT — but in the end, the Cavs outlasted the C's to win 113-109.
May 18, 2008: The Celtics met LeBron in the playoffs for the first time in the spring of '08; they blew a 2-0 lead and let the Cavs fight back to force a seventh game, but the Celtics meant business for Game 7 in Boston. James scored 45 points, Pierce scored 41, and the C's survived a 97-92 bloodbath to advance to the East finals. They eventually hoisted Banner 17 after taking down Detroit and finally L.A. in June.
May 13, 2010: The second time they met in the playoffs, of course, was LeBron's final game as a Cavalier. Individually, King James was brilliant, with his 27 points, 19 rebounds and 10 assists dwarfing the 13, 5 and 3 for Pierce. But the Celtics won the battle of the supporting casts — it was a 94-85 final, sending Pierce to the East finals and LeBron to free agency. You know how that story ends.
Oct. 26, 2010: Yep, that's right — James' very next game. His career with the Cavaliers ended at the TD Garden; his career with the Heat began there, too. James went off for a game-high 31 on opening night this season, picking up the slack while Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh struggled. Pierce shined as well, with 19 points and nine boards to lead the C's, but it was again the supporting cast that made the difference. Rajon Rondo's 17 assists, Kevin Garnett's 10 rebounds and Ray Allen's five 3s paved the way for an 88-80 Celtics win.
The next chapter in the rivalry will be written Sunday, as the C's host the Heat for the second time this season at the TD Garden. Will we see the next unforgettable Pierce-LeBron showdown? Check it out at 1 p.m. and find out