Paul Pierce isn't the only member of the Boston Celtics who has learned LeBron James' game inside and out.
While Pierce has been battling against James on the opposing team for years, including this season in the Eastern Conference Finals, Celtics swingman Sasha Pavlovic has more firsthand experience with the Miami Heats power player.
James was the top pick in the 2003 NBA Draft. Pavlovic was selected 18 picks after him. A year later, the two became teammates on the Cavaliers when Pavlovic was traded to Cleveland. They played together on the 2008 Cavaliers squad that was eliminated by the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Pavlovic spent five years on the same team as James and watched him develop from a young phenom into a league MVP. Now that they are facing off in the playoffs for the second year in a row, Pavlovic knows what to expect -- and how to limit -- his former teammate.
LeBron's always going to be LeBron, Pavlovic said. He can score, he's one of the best players in the league, but we've got to make it hard for him. Contest every shot, don't let him get into the lane.
James scored 32 points in the Heats Game 1 victory over the Celtics on Monday, the most points allowed by the Cs this postseason. The 6-8, 250-pound forward got to the rim and attacked the lane, a weapon Pavlovic says the Celtics have to take away from him.
He is most effective probably driving to the middle, Pavlovic said. We can't allow him to do that. He has the size and he's more aggressive. He tries to get in, then his shots open up, and we've just got to stop him from driving.
Pavlovic emphasized the Celtics need to focus on the entire Heat team, not just James. But after netting 13 field goals in Game 1 (also the most allowed by the Cs this postseason), it was clear who they have to make defensive adjustments on moving forward.
All I know is, he's like everybody else during the playoffs, said Pavlovic. Hes more focused and playing as hard as he can.
Pavlovic played four minutes in the series opener. Whether or not he will be called upon to use his familiarity with James remains to be seen.