LeBron James. Paul Pierce. Two of the best small forwards to ever grace the league. Their greatness are to be defined in different views. James was destined to take his place in the Mount Olympus of the NBA while Pierce had to prove his worth and endure a number of losing seasons until he got the chance to shine bright on the big stage.
At one point, James said that Paul Pierce, not Kobe Bryant, is his biggest rival. Neither player wants to give an inch and the results of their clashes over the years have become classics. James and Pierce have gone at one another 36 times in the regular season and 30 times in the playoff. While LeBron had been the dominant statistical player in these matchups, it took a while until those stats actually began resulting in victories. We count down the Top 5 moments in the LeBron James vs. Paul Pierce rivalry, starting with number 5:
7. May 12, 2008, BOS 77 – CLE 88
With the Cavaliers up 82-75 with just under 2 minutes left in Game 4 of the 2008 Eastern Conference Semifinals , LeBron James uses a nasty hesitation dribble to lose Pierce, and then blows by him for a poster dunk on teammate Kevin Garnett.
6. December 13, 2003, BOS 105 – CLE 98
It was only the second matchup of their storied rivalry but LeBron James and Paul Pierce gave everyone a glimpse of what`s to come. In front of thousand of witnesses at the Gund Arena, both players put up a show in the first half as they scored 20 points apiece. The buckets kept coming as the 18-year old rookie scored 37 points to try and counter the five-year veteran`s 41 points. In the end, it took a Pierce steal from James to cap off the victory in the dying seconds. The Truth acknowledged The King`s threat, then took the rookie phenom to school and got the job done on the road.
5. February 15, 2006, CLE 113 – BOS 109
Paul Pierce had a career high 50 points to go aong with seven rebounds and eight assists. If that wasn’t impressive enough, LeBron James was able to one-up him on that night with a triple double, finishing with 43 points, 11 rebounds, 12 assists, and four blocks all in a double overtime Cavalier victory. The game turned out to be the highest scoring duel between James and Pierce. Pierce dominated James for a short stretch until The King gathered himself for a vengeful finish in the second overtime.
4. June 5, 2012 – BOS 94 – MIA 90
This game featured one of the biggest shots in the James-Pierce saga. Boston came into this game as the underdogs against the dominant Miami team, but Pierce had a different plan in mind. LeBron was his usual stat stuffing self while the Celtics hung around most of the game. Pierce waited for that one special moment in the fourth quarter to step up and he did not disappoint. Pierce sank a long, cold-blooded three-pointer right in the face of Miami and in heart of Miami with just 53 seconds remaining. That shot gave the Celtics enough breathing room to squeak out of Miami with a Game 5 victory. Again, James won the scoring battle between themselves.
3. June 9, 2012 – BOS 88 – CLE 101
Coming off of a 45 point explosion on the road, LeBron James and the Heat needed one more game to advance to the NBA Finals for a second straight year. James scored 31 points with 12 rebounds while getting to the free-throw line at will. He got the better of Pierce, who scored 19 points on 7-18 shooting. Miami would defeat Boston to advance to the NBA Finals, but more importantly James had finally slaughtered the beast in the Boston Celtics and Paul Pierce that had haunted him for years.
The biggest shot of the night came with jsut under 5:50 left in the game, as James stepped up and knocked down a deep three-pointer to give the Heat a 91-84 lead. Miami would outscore Boston 10-4 the rest of the way to win the game.
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2. June 7, 2012 – MIA 98 – BOS 79
In one of the games cemented LeBron as the best player on the planet, Miami marched into Boston with their backs against the wall. They were facing a 3-2 deficit and elimination with one more loss in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. LeBron James had a determined look in his eyes from tipoff and despite being at home, Boston had no idea what was coming to them. LeBron James scored 45 points on 19-26 shooting to go along with 15 rebounds and five assists as the Heat destroyed Boston on their own home floor.
1. May 18, 2008, CLE 92 – BOS 97
Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The Cleveland Cavaliers were looking for a huge upset as they looked to eliminate the highly favored Boston Celtics in their home floor. LeBron James and Paul Pierce took the challenge of leading their teams as they scored 45 and 41 points, respectively and the heat of their matchup equalled the gravity of the game. The ending of this contest even went down to a looseball scramble involving the two with Pierce winning it, ultimately leading to a lucky freethrow bounce for The Truth to nail the series.