Paul Pierce's top five games with the Celtics
Paul Pierce's top 5 games with the Celtics
On Monday, Paul Pierce will face the Celtics for the final time in his NBA career, marking the end of a connection that dates back to his selection in the 1998 draft and included 10 All-Star selections and an NBA title.
His great moments are vast, but what about his greatest games? Picking five is difficult is difficult because it’s hard to quantify what makes similar performances better than the others. Are postseason performances automatically better than regular-season games? Can one of his best games have been a loss? It’s all subjective.
With that said — and in total anticipation of disagreement — here are Pierce’s five best games as a Celtic:
5. 50 POINTS AGAINST THE CAVS
In ranking Pierce the 38th greatest player of all time, CBS Sports wrote: “No. MVPs. No DPOYs. One title. No First-Team All-NBA selections. No historical seasons of statistical excellent relative to the rest of the league. No specific category he was dominant in.”
And it’s true: As legends go, Pierce is an unspectacular legend. Here’s another example: In Pierce’s illustrious career, he’s only scored 50 points once, and it was exactly 50 points.
While these lists often consist of only postseason games -- and at the very least, wins -- Pierce’s highest point total, which he accomplished in a loss against LeBron and the Cavs on Feb. 5, 2006, deserves some love.
4. GAME 3 VS. NETS IN 2001-02
The Celtics were down 21 points at the end of the third quarter and set to fall behind, two games to one, in the Eastern Conference finals. Then Paul Pierce happened and the Celtics pulled off the largest fourth-quarter comeback in postseason history.
Pierce scored 19 points in that quarter, including a pair of free throws in the final minute to tie the game and put the Celtics ahead in what would become a 94-90 victory. That would be the Celtics’ final win of the series, but this ain’t about that.
3. GAME 1 VS. PACERS IN 2002-03
While Pierce’s best moment from this series came when he drained a 3 in Al Harrington’s face while jawing at him in Game 4, Pierce’s Game 1 performance was more critical. Unlike Game 4, Game 1 came down to the wire and Pierce was there to deliver Boston a late win.
Pierce had a game-high 40 points, thanks in large part to a 21-for-21 showing at the line. With the C’s trailing by a point with under 30 seconds to play, Pierce drained a 3 with 27 seconds left to put Boston ahead for good. He put the game on ice by making two free throws with two seconds remaining to secure the 103-100 win.
2. GAME 5 VS. 76ERS IN 2001-02
Though the Celtics missed the playoffs in Pierce’s first three seasons, it didn’t take long for him to become a postseason performer once the team got there.
Pierce’s 46 points in his fifth playoff game -- a series-clinching Game 5 win over the 76ers -- remain the most in a single playoff game in his career. The Celtics would go on to beat the Pistons in five games before losing the Eastern Conference finals to the Nets in six games.
1. GAME 7 VS. CAVS IN 2007-08
Pierce and James have faced off in five postseason series, splitting the four that occurred when Pierce was with the Celtics.
Yet while James’ Heat eliminated Pierce and the C’s en route to trips to the NBA Finals in 2010-11 and 2011-12, there was a time when they were his kryptonite as a member of the Cavaliers.
The ultimate Pierce over LeBron moment came during Boston’s 2007-08 championship run, when Pierce and James each rose to the occasion with 41 and 45 points, respectively, in a 97-92 Boston victory in Game 7 of the conference semifinals.