Boston Celtics Rewatch Part 1: Paul Pierce vs LeBron James duel in 2008

Paul Pierce and LeBron James went toe to toe in Game 7 of the 2008 Eastern Conference Semifinals and the Boston Celtics were the victors Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Paul Pierce and LeBron James went toe to toe in Game 7 of the 2008 Eastern Conference Semifinals and the Boston Celtics were the victors Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports /

The Boston Celtics have had countless legendary games over the last fifteen years since the start of the Big 3 era. We at Hardwood Houdini thought it would be interesting to pick 12 of the best Celtics games of the last 15 years and rewatch them.

With the NBA season just over two months away, we will feature one game a week up until opening night for the Cs. The idea is an homage to Bill Simmons and his “Rewatchable’s” podcast.

First up on the list is an iconic game that defined Paul Pierce’s career, and it is the best performance of his career. That performance was Game 7 of the 2008 Eastern Conference Semifinals against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Celtics defeated the Cavs 97-92, and they would go on to win Banner 18.

Some background heading into the game is that every game had been won by the home team. The series had also been one of the lowest-scoring series in NBA history at the time. Also, the Boston Celtics were under immense pressure because they had already been taken to seven games in the first round by the No. 8-seeded Atlanta Hawks. Pierce was under pressure as it was the biggest game of his career at that point.

Pierce got off to a strong start in the game, and the Cs jumped out to a 14-4 lead early. Pierce finished with 26 in the first half, and he went toe to toe with James. The duo battled in what became an instant classic as they each traded buckets. James finished with 45 points, but Pierce had 41 and got the victory.

The Celtics could have won the game by double digits, but James’s heroics kept the Cavs in the game. Pierce and the Celtics made key plays down the stretch to secure the victory. Now let’s dive into the main categories of our rewatch series.

Biggest moment of the game: P.J. Brown shot/Paul Pierce jump ball

The biggest moment of the game is a tie between P.J. Brown and Paul Pierce because both plays were within minutes of each other. Brown had a crucial jump shot in the final three minutes to put the Celtics up three. The shot was one of many key plays from Brown, who finished with 10 points off the bench. As a player who was picked up midseason, the Celtics could not have asked for more from Brown.

The Pierce jump ball is tied with the Brown shot because it is an iconic play in Celtics history. With just over a minute left, Pierce secured a crucial jump ball as he beat James to the floor and gained another possession for the Cs. Every Celtics fan can remember Pierce celebrating on the floor after winning the jump ball.

Star of the game: Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce is the star of this game as his 41 points propelled the Celtics to the Conference Finals. Pierce was efficient in the game as he shot 4-6 from three and 11-12 from the free-throw line. He also had a clutch free throw that bounced high in the air and then into the net, which led to a chuckle from Pierce.

The game is important for Pierce’s legacy because he went toe to toe with one of the greatest players of all time, and he beat him.

Winners of the game: Boston Celtics role players/Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce is an obvious winner in this game, but the Celtic’s role players deserve credit for the win. Eddie House, P.J. Brown, and James Posey had solid contributions off the bench for the Cs. House and Posey had low-scoring outputs, but their high energy was important in the win. Brown’s clutch plays were also huge for the Celtics, especially in the fourth quarter.

Losers of the game: LeBron James/Ray Allen

On the other hand, LeBron James and Ray Allen are the losers. James is on the losers list because he had one of the greatest performances by a road player in Game 7, but he was outshone. If James had won the game, the conversation around his performance would be different.

Allen is a loser in the game because his performance was a continuation of his poor series. The Cs sharpshooter had just four points on 1/6 shooting from the field and 0/2 from the 3-point line. In the series, Allen shot below 20% from 3-point range. The worst part for Allen was that he was benched for most of the fourth quarter.

Impact of the game

The impact of this game is that it led to Banner 18 for the Boston Celtics. Boston struggled to finish the series quickly in 2008, but they found a way to get it done. The series was also the first sign to James that he was not going to be able to beat the Big 3 Celtics on his own.