Pierce, James continue healthy playoff rivalry

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Pierce, James continue healthy playoff rivalry

MIAMI LeBron James and Paul Pierce are about as familiar as two opposing players can be this time of year.

When James and the Miami Heat square off against the Captain and his Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals tonight, it will mark the third straight season James and Pierce have met in the playoffs and the fourth time in the last five seasons.

It's the kind of annual get-together that makes it more than just another matchup of talented players.

It plants the seed for a rivalry, something that at least one of James' Miami Heat teammates believes is possible with James and Pierce.

"They've played so many times in the playoffs," said Miami's Dwyane Wade. "They're such good offensive players and good defenders, so they're going to make it tough on each other."

That has certainly been the case when the two have faced off in the playoffs.

When Boston eliminated James (then a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers) during the C's 2008 title run, James averaged 26.7 points but shot just 35.5 percent from the field. Pierce's numbers in the playoffs are a bit down against James-led teams as well.

In their 2008 second round playoff series, Pierce's scoring average dropped slightly (from 19.6 points in the regular season, to 19.4 against the Cavs), but there was a noticeable drop-off in his field goal percent (45.7 during the regular season, down to 40.4 against Cleveland).

The two have met a total of 18 times in the playoffs since 2008, with each walking away victorious nine games.

To further prove just how difficult each has made life for the other in the playoffs, Pierce has shot 40 percent from the field while averaging just 17.6 points in the 18 games against James-led teams.

James, a three-time league MVP, has lit up the C's for 27.1 points per game in the playoffs, but has shot just 41.6 percent from the field in those games. To put that in perspective, James' worst season shooting the ball was his rookie year when he connected on just 41.7 percent of his shots.

"When you play against someone constantly, they become some kind of rival," Wade added.

But most individual rivalries involve a certain amount of disdain or outward dislike for that player and his franchise.

You don't get that between Pierce and James.

Because of that, the Pierce-James duel doesn't necessarily have the same kind of edge or sizzle to it that existed in the 1980s with Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, or the C's in their annual postseason duels with the Detroit Pistons.

"It is what it is. You have great teams; we both play on great teams," Pierce said. "It just so happens that we have to face one another. After a while, it just becomes mutual respect for the things he's done in this league, the things I've done in this league. It's a very competitive battle."

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Rose looking like his old self

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Rose looking like his old self

BOSTON – The New York Knicks have been in a massive funk of late, something the Boston Celtics had to know which, not surprisingly, would result in them playing with a heightened level of desperation.

That desperation left the Celtics a bit exasperated at the half which ended with a 10-2 run by New York that put them ahead 63-54 at the half.

After falling behind by as many as nine points in the second quarter, the Celtics rallied to within a single point (53-52) following a basket by Isaiah Thomas.

The second quarter was all-New York afterwards.

It was just a one-possession game (Boston led 34-31) for the Celtics going into the second quarter, which was exactly where Boston didn’t want to be against a Knicks team whose bench ranks among the NBA’s highest-scoring second units recently. In their last three games, the Knicks’ bench has averaged 43.0 points per game which according to hoopsstats.com, ranks sixth in the NBA during that span.

At the half, they had 33 points compared to just 12 for Boston’s backups.

Boston fell behind early 9-5, but the Celtics rallied following a time-out with a 15-4 run capped off by a 3-pointer from Isaiah Thomas.

The Celtics’ lead peaked at nine points on separate occasions in the first, but the Knicks closed out the first with a 12-6 spurt that cut Boston’s lead to 34-31 at the end of the first.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half.

 

STARS

Derrick Rose

The former league MVP looked like his old self tonight instead of just old. He led the Knicks with 14 points on 7-for-11 shooting.

Isaiah Thomas

The Knicks had great success inside the paint against all the Celtics minus Thomas who did much of his dirty work offensively on drives to the basket. At the half he had 19 points on 8-for-10 shooting.

 

STUDS

Willy Hernangomez

Boston had problems rebounding the ball, and Hernangomez was the main reason why. At the half he had 10 points and six rebounds, three of which were offensive boards.

Jae Crowder

Dealing with Carmelo Anthony is enough to keep Crowder busy tonight. But he’s doing that at a high level in addition to providing a nice punch offensively with 14 points.

Mindaugas Kuzminskas

You may not know his name, but his game was pretty impressive in the first half. At the half, he had nine points.

 

DUDS

Al Horford

We’ve seen him air-ball a 3-pointer, miss a lay-up and strguggle to get any shots to go down tonight. At the half, he had three points while missing nine of his 10 shot attempts.

Avery Bradley (Achilles) will not play vs. Knicks

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Avery Bradley (Achilles) will not play vs. Knicks

BOSTON – Both New York and Boston will take to the floor tonight minus a starter courtesy of a sore Achilles injury.

For Celtics guard Avery Bradley, tonight will be the fifth time in the last six games that his right Achilles injury will keep him sidelined.

Meanwhile, New York’s Kristaps Porzingis will miss his fourth straight game with a sore left Achilles injury.

The 7-foot-3 Porzingis averages 19.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.

Porzingis’ absence tonight was established well before tip-off.

“I’d say I’m 90 percent ready; still not there yet,” Porzingis told reporters prior to the game. “But I’m getting closer … hopefully the next game or after the next game.”

As far as Bradley is concerned, he was a last-minute matter.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was asked about his roster earlier tonight, and indicated Tyler Zeller (sinus) and James Young (ankle) would be on the inactive list tonight with injuries.

Without Bradley, the Celtics are expected to start Marcus Smart who has filled in as the team’s starter previously when the 6-foot-2 Bradley was unavailable.

 Bradley is the Celtics' second-leading scorer with 17.7 points per game this season, along with a team-high 6.9 rebounds per game and 2.4 assists.