Paul Pierce still bleeds green, especially with the Boston Celtics facing the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals.
Pierce now is an analyst for ESPN, but it wasn’t long ago that he and LeBron James went toe to toe in the playoffs on several occasions, resulting in a rivalry the former Celtics star still can’t shake.
“I mean, they were our rivals,” Pierce told the Boston Herald’s Steve Bulpett this week. “You know, me and LeBron, we were like the top small forwards in the conference at the time, and it turned into a rivalry. We had a lot of good battles. That’s something that you just don’t forget. He’s one of the greatest players to ever play this game. I had a chance to take advantage of him for a couple of years, and after that you’ve seen his dominance. It’s nothing personal, but that’s what it was at the time.”
Pierce and James met in the playoffs for the first time in 2008, when Boston defeated Cleveland in the second round en route to an NBA title. The series culminated with an epic Game 7 showdown in which Pierce outdueled James, setting the stage for a rivalry that extended into James’ tenure with the Miami Heat — and evidently beyond.
“I’m sure Isiah (Thomas) isn’t asking (Michael) Jordan for hugs,” Pierce said, per Bulpett. “I’m sure he’s not praising Chicago on NBA TV. That’s just what it is. I’ll give credit where credit is due, but when you have a rival, it’s just hard to let go.”
Pierce and the Celtics also beat James and the Cavs in the second round in 2010, although Boston later lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. The Celtics’ series-clinching victory marked the end of James’ first stint with the Cavs. He signed with the Heat during the ensuing offseason, after which Boston faced Miami in back-to-back postseasons, losing in both instances.
James now is 33 years old, but little has changed in that he’s still the best player in the NBA. This year’s Celtics team has proved formidable despite losing Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, though. And Pierce believes the C’s are a bad matchup for the Cavs, just like they were in 2010.
“You’ve got LeBron, and he’s capable of carrying his team by himself, but the difficult thing about the Celtics is it’s hard to scout them,” Pierce told Bulpett. “When you’ve got four or five guys who can beat you on any given night, that’s hard to play against. They share the ball and they play tough defense. That’s tough to scout.”
Remember, folks. The next time you see Pierce on TV, he might try to stay fair and balanced, analyzing the Eastern Conference finals without bias. But we all know where The Truth’s heart really resides.
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