Pierce wants to guard LeBron
Paul Pierce and LeBron James have been battling in the NBA Playoffs for years.
The rivalry between the forwards began when Pierce played for Boston and James played for Cleveland, but it's continuing this postseason with Brooklyn and Miami in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Given the history between the two, it shouldn't surprise anyone that Pierce approached his coach, Jason Kidd, about guarding his old nemesis — as detailed in a story by Ohm Youngmisuk for ESPNNewYork.com.
In Game 3, Brooklyn had to win to keep the best-of-seven series manageable, and Pierce helped limit the ever-explosive James to 12 points over the last three quarters of a 104-90 Nets win on Saturday, which cut Miami's lead to 2-1.
"I went to J-Kidd [for] Game 2 and said I want that assignment. ... I think I've guarded him more than anybody in this gym. I know his tendencies a little bit more and I just try to step up in that role and try to lead that way."
That conversation came after James hit 10 of 15 shots in Game 1. The four-time league MVP shot 9-for-18 in a Game 2 win, and then went 8-for-15 in Game 3.
Pierce's defense against LeBron certainly hasn't been flawless.
But matchup data from NBA.com/stats shows that The Truth is making an impact on the defensive end. James and Dwyane Wade combined to score 48 of Miami's 90 points in the Miami's first loss of the playoffs. Pierce spent more time guarding one of those two in the half court than any other Brooklyn defender.
In 8:31 of game time, James and Wade got 29 half-court touches versus Pierce. They combined to score seven points — 3-for-7 field goals, 1-for-4 on 3-pointers and no trips to the foul line.
If it's up to the 36-year-old Pierce, one of the few people out there who believes Brooklyn can beat Miami and advance to the conference finals, he'll guard the 29-year-old LeBron the rest of the series. Averaging just 11.7 points a game in the series, Pierce told reporters he has to impact the game on defense.
"I don't have the offensive load that I had in the past where I set on having to carry us all the way offensively and then take the best defensive assignment. Now I can reserve a lot of energy toward trying to defend him. When the time comes for me to score, then I'll do that also."
Game 4 is at Brooklyn on Monday night (7 p.m., TNT).
Collison and Durant go way back
When Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant earned his first MVP award last week, he thanked each one of his Thunder teammates during an emotional acceptance speech.
The league's MVP made it clear through his words how important the honor was to him, but he also showed humility and appreciation for the players who helped him reach greatness.
Durant didn't come into the league playing at this level, and few know that better than Kansas alum Nick Collison. He has spent more time with Durant than any other player in an OKC uniform — the two began as teammates with the Seattle SuperSonics before the franchise moved to Oklahoma City.
Due to his unique perspective (Collison has been teammates with Durant since KD entered the league), Sports Illustrated asked him to write about playing alongside Durant for seven seasons.
Collison shared how limited the future superstar was as a rookie, and how he developed into the unguardable monster he is today. Now in his 10th season out of KU, the backup power forward appreciates what the MVP has meant for his livelihood.
Look at my career. I'm viewed as a guy who does the little things that help a team win. I have a niche, even a little bit of a cult following. But if I were on a losing team, no one would talk about that. And the reason for that is Kevin, and Russell Westbrook. Their success raises all of us.
Collison closes the piece by saying what an honor it has been for him to play with Durant.
And the feeling is mutual.
The Thunder are tied with the Los Angeles Clippers, 2-2, in a West semifinal. Game 5 is Tuesday night at Oklahoma City (8:30 p.m., TNT).
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