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Paul Pierce Returns The Favor

 

The date was May 9th, 2011 when LeBron James hit his first “dagger” three against Boston. That might not be the proper terminology for it given the circumstances, (it was a game-tying shot) but it feels appropriate. The Celtics had just run off six straight points to take a 84-81 lead with just under 2:30 remaining in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Boston was gutting it out with a hobbled Rajon Rondo, yet had appeared to seize the momentum after back-to-back 3′s which sent Miami reeling and had Boston on the verge of tying up the series at two games a piece.

It was that night on the very next possession where LeBron took the ball in the right corner with the shot clock running down. Paul Pierce was guarding him tightly, but perhaps not tightly enough. With one contested three-pointer, the 33 percent career shooter from beyond the arc changed the entire complexion of that series. Miami was able to fight their way into overtime, and pulled away from there to steal their only win at the TD Garden over the past two years.

The Celtics fought back valiantly in Game 5, playing inspired team ball in Miami for the first 43 minutes of the contest, as a Nenad Krstic jumper put them up 87-81 with 4:30 remaining in the game. I won’t rehash what happened from there, but yet again it was LeBron with multiple contested 3-point daggers that put the C’s away for good in that 16-0 series closing run.

Paul Pierce was the man guarding James as he buried long jumper after long jumper over his outstretched arms as he watched his season wilt away. It undoubtedly haunted him over the last 12 months, as he defended LeBron the only way you could really. In all honesty, you want him taking that outside shot, especially if you can get a hand in his face on it. Pierce did things right for the most part, but still was burned for it.

Fittingly last night though, the tables were turned and the captain had a chance at redemption. Pierce pounded the ball into the hardwood at American Airlines Arena staring into the face of James. The C’s were clinging to a one-point lead with just under a minute remaining and The Truth had battled through a 5-of-18 shooting night.

If there’s one thing Boston fans know about one of the most prolific scorers in Celtics history, it’s that he’s not short on confidence. He relishes these kinds of moments, for better or worse. The fact he had already missed 13 shots in Game 5 did not faze him one bit.

As I watched the 34-year-old run down the shot clock, I knew we would see a shot and implored the captain to take it to the hole. Pierce had shot just 2-of-13 from outside the paint at that juncture in the game, yet nonetheless I knew what was coming.

I asked fellow CelticsHub writer Hayes Davenport after the game what he thought at that juncture before Pierce threw up a deep 3-pointer; “Pure anger,” Davenport admitted to me. “Can you imagine if it hadn’t gone down?”

I hadn’t thought about that possibility I must admit but, there’s a good reason for that.

I didn’t have to.

And you know what, besides Pierce hitting perhaps the biggest shot of the C’s season, I want to give him credit for taking that attempt in hindsight. Why? No one thought he would pull-up from there. Not me, not the American Airlines Arena crowd, and especially not James who was defending somewhat loosely,  waiting for Pierce to make his move to his sweet spot at the right elbow and give him a strong contest on would have been a tough shot.

Pierce knew LeBron expected this, yet he still wanted the shot here. He didn’t want to be forced into making a pass and perhaps a rushed shot for a teammate. He didn’t want to take it to the hole and get rejected or risk the contact without getting the foul call. He was the team’s closer and he had to do his job.

And with LeBron’s dagger 3′s from last year likely lurking in the back of the captain’s mind, he took the shot from a place no one was expecting. Ironically, it was from the very opposite wing last year in Game 5 where LeBron hit the closeout 3 in Pierce’s eye to put Miami up 6 with under a minute remaining, effectively putting the game out of reach for the Heat.

Last night, Pierce returned the favor.

  • greenboner

    i got a semi watchin it this time.

  • CG12

    How about LeBron with the uncalled foul on the challenge, too? It is clear as day in the headline picture.

    • Anthony

      Lebron just wanted to give Truth a high-five. Lol. The layup where he freezes Lebron was pretty sweet too.

      I actually thought he was preparing to take that 3. It's a little reminiscent of the pre-Tebow 3 against ATL. Just pure Truth.

  • Guest

    Can this guy please get some respect now?? Soo under appreciated its a shame. On another note, does anyone know for sure what hes saying after he 'returns the favor'??

    • moe

      Pierce on his way back to huddle after draining monster 3 "I got your five, six, seven right here bitches".

    • Sean

      My brother says "I'm so money"

    • CG12

      Others have suggested he was saying "I'm cold-blooded."

      • Guest

        After re watching it a couple times too many, its definitely IM COLD BLOODED. What a Pierce thing to say, hands down my favourite CELTIC EVER

    • Troof

      "I'm so blood"

  • I_Love_Green

    I was literally shouting at my TV "No Paul no hero ball! No hero ball!"

    But then he swished the three and the rest is history……God I love The Truth.

    • CG12

      no, no, no… YES!

  • High Rollers

    I love how everyone is filling in their own blank on Pierce's threeball smack. Janos, where are you? We're not only all Rondos, we're all Truths apparently. The sun is shining and it's a good day, even though I couldn't sleep a wink last night. (Luckily I didn't have to drag myself anywhere today and could catch a few winks late in the morning, a la Swag; otherwise I'd be absolutely manic by now.)

  • High Rollers

    By the way, I think that was the biggest game of Rondo's career. I know he seems to be having them every night lately, and on paper and in most eyes last night was not his finest effort. Miss after miss, little mistakes galore. A few end game wonders that left folks once again scratching their heads about his I.D., and since we won, saying for the umpteenth time, "What the hell, it's Rondo; he's special, weird, and we'll take it for the end result." But never forget that he got past mad last night. Maybe not once and for all, but to my mind something's been clicking and last night was the most demonstrative click of all. I think he earned his don Quixote badge last night. So maybe what Paul was saying after the threeball was, "See, 9? Welcome to the club. Here's how the old doubted crazy believing knights get it done. We've got the windmill surrounded." Something like that.

    Last night was deserving of a little myth making.

  • High Rollers

    from A. Sherrod Blakely ‏@SherrodbCSN in the Twitterverse:

    "#CelticsTalk: #Celtics Greg Stiemsma added to Team USA select team that will compete vs Team USA national team next month in Las Vegas."

    Congrats, Steamboat! Well deserved.

  • GowGow

    KG said he knew it was going down and if you watch closely, he wasn't lying. Allen went to get the offensive rebound but not KG, KG was already walking to the bench as Pierce pull up for the three.

  • Phil

    Pierce actually pulled up from the same spot with Mike Miller guarding him at the end of the third quarter of game 3. I remember thinking at the time; it didn't seem like a good shot, but Mike Miller was already four steps ahead of him and running to the elbow where everyone figured he was going. He was wide open when he drained the shot then because it was so unexpected. James is slightly more athletic, long and freakish than Mike Miller, so he almost got back in time, but he drained it anyway. Maybe Pierce has a new go to spot.

    My brain wasn't working at the time it happened, so I don't know what I was thinking, but looking back, it really was a terrible shot. This clutch revolution for the Celtics has been based on finding the best shot every time down the field, and that was straight Kobe hero ball. If you make it though, everything's a good shot.

    I do like that the Celtics are gaining a clutch reputation out of this postseason. The numbers speak for themselves, and they're execution late has been beautiful.

  • Brian

    It's annoying that Mike Breen says he's one of the underrated clutch players in the NBA after he hits that shot. I also heard Tim Legler say that he took alot of flak on twitter for putting Pierce on his Top 5 clutch list. Overrated Kobe and his punk fanboys make it seem like he's the only guy that makes game winning shots.

  • Tom

    The truth is just a beast and wade just looked terrible! if wade played like they would maybe win but he hasnt and he has choked these last two games! i wrote all about how the heat are in trouble and will lose this series as well as how to bet it so come by check it out and enjoy! http://nbawagers.com/2012/06/is-this-the-end-of-t

  • http://www.ignitemybutt.com/ Ignite Stream Energy

    Wow. I didn't see that coming situation of players.their energy will be missed, please try to win the job and get more success in life.

  • http://www.yell.com/biz/convocco-birmingham-7572337/ convocco

    I have Spend some time to see the game but I could not learn the games playing.I have to say this article is very excellent.thanks for lovely sharing.

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