A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
The Truth’s 50 points Gets Trumped By King James’ 43 points, triple-double
“Bird and Dominique (May 22, 1988), and this one …Paul was absolutely sensational tonight.”BOSTON, MA–“Two shootouts I’ve been in, I’m 0 for 2,” revealed Boston Celtics coach Glenn Doc Rivers following a 113-109 double-overtime loss to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers at the TD Banknorth Garden on Wednesday.
The “this one” that Doc was referring to was the 50 points that Paul Pierce scored before fouling out of the game, and losing the battle between two all-stars. It was the first time a Celtic recorded 50 points since Larry Bird did it on November 10, 1989. Pierce knocked down 17 out of 36 attempts from the field, was no-for-4 from the deep end, and converted 16-for-20 from the charity stripe.
Pierce stepped up to the challenge from the opening tipoff as he was assigned with unenviable task of guarding the heir apparent. The young King James reciprocated, and that match up set the tone for an ole-fashion shootout in the new Garden. Pierce ended the first quarter scoring 10 (5-for-9 from the field) of the Celtics’ 23 points. LeBron was slightly more efficient, nailing six out of eight field goal attempts, and scoring 13 of Cleveland’s 30 first quarter points.
LeBron struck first by scoring six of the first eight Cleveland points of the game before Pierce was able to knock down a jumper from 21-feet early in the game (4-9 Cavaliers). When James hit his eighth point of the game on a 20-footer, Pierce stepped it up a notch by knocking down a baseline jumper from 16-feet on Lebron; then nailing a 17-foot fade-away on James; and then, after King James was able to hit a 17-foot turnaround jumper with Pierce all in his mug, the Truth got the ball on the right baseline in the ensuing possession, faked James left, went baseline right, and dunked home his 10th point of the game, sending the sellout crowd of 17,915 into a frenzy (19-26). “When you exert so much energy on offense as he does, you can try to take advantage on the other end,” told The Truth. “I always say, ‘The best defense is an offense.’ Only way to slow him down is to go back at him on offense.”
Not to be outdone, James received the ball during Cleveland’s next possession, drove by Pierce, and hit a tough shot on Celtic rookie Ryan Gomes for his 13th point of the night. PP then assisted Gomes in some get back when he spotted the Celtic rookie in the paint, and hooked him up with a sweet pass for a two-handed slam (21-28).
Outside of one move that Pierce put on the Cleveland defense, neither player did anything spectacular in the second frame, but both were just as efficient as they were during the first quarter. LeBron hit three field goals that quarter, all of which came from at least 20-feet from the basket, and most of Pierce’s points came from the charity stripe, as he made five out of six. When LeBron subbed out of the game in the second quarter, Cleveland chose to put Sasha Pavlovic on Pierce, and the five time all-star quickly abused Pavlovic by setting him up for a baseline yoke for his 14th point of the game (32-41).
By halftime, Cleveland maintained a seven point advantage (43-50). James led his team with 20 points at the intermission, and Pierce was right there with him, leading the Celts with 19 points.
It’s hard to believe that the young King is only 21 years old considering what transpired during the second half. But the nonbelief does not stem from the show that he was able to put on in the second half. It was based on the calls that the refs were giving the young James. You would have thought he was a 10 year vet after seeing how the whistles went in LeBron’s favor.
Pierce had just finished getting his 23rd point of the night, a shot that brought Boston to within one point (56-57) with 6:39 remaining in the third. During Cleveland’s next possession, all three refs looked the other way as LeBron was able to get away with a carry and a walking violation in one possession. But when Pierce was tripped as he attempted a drive down the lane late in the fourth quarter, the refs muted their whistles. LeBron recovered Pierce’s turnover, dribbled the length of the court and postorized Delonte West by putting his knee to West’s chest and dunking on him with his right hand as West was trying to take a charge. West was clearly outside of the circle underneath the rim, but the refs awarded the King with credit for the dunk and a trip to the free-throw line. He missed the free throw attempt and kept Boston within two points (90-92) with 1:26 remaining in regulation.
In the ref’s defense, they came up with a make up call that sent the game into its first overtime. Pierce had the ball about 19-feet from the basket with James closely guarding him. Pierce faked James into the air, leaned into him and, after he was able to create a little bit of contact, tried to shoot a fade-away over the outstretched arms of James. Pierce airmailed the shot, but was bailed out when the whistle blew and gave the Cavaliers captain his fifth foul of the game. Pierce, who in the past has been known to miss free throws at the most inopportune time, confidently sank both shots with .2 seconds left in the game to send the game into its first overtime.
When speaking about the pressure of being at the free throw line with the game on the line, Pierce said, “I didn’t really think about it. I might have blown some freethrows earlier in the year with seconds to go, but I just didn’t think about it. I just tried to will my team and get us in overtime. That’s all I could do.”
The game probably would have ended in dramatic fashion if it weren’t for another blown call by one of the refs. Pierce was playing tight perimeter defense on James with one minute to play in the second overtime and Cleveland clinging to a one point lead (107-108) when he was called for a ticky-tack, touch foul. It was his sixth of the game. At that point, Pierce had accounted for 47% of the Celtics’ total points. But with their gunner now out of the game, the Celtics could not convert on any more field goals in the final minute and the Celtics fell to LeBron James’ 43 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists.
“In my opinion, I feel like when you have two all-stars guarding each other you got to let some things go,” said a somewhat frustrated Pierce after the game. “I didn’t feel like my aggressiveness on defense really warranted a foul. I just thought I was sliding my feet, staying in front of him, but I got called for a foul. And that’s the breaks of the game. Things like that happen. You just got to move on.”
“It was one of those games,” Pierce continued when asked about his outstanding performance. “I really got into a groove in the second half. Guys were giving the ball to me. It felt good. It would’ve felt a lot better if we were on the winning side, but it was just a great game to be a part of tonight.”
“I’m a little drained, a little beat up. My ankle is really bothering me, my elbow. So, it’s like the perfect opportunity. We get two guys back in Al (Jefferson) and Perk (Kendrick Perkins), get Wally (Szczerbiak) healthy, get myself some rest, and get ready to start the second half.”