NBA: Pierce’s knee the main topic
BOSTON ó Paul Pierce’s dramatic return was compelling theater in the round(ball), one of those defining, Willis Reed-type moments.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who had front-row seats at both events, wasn’t so impressed.
“If I’m not mistaken,” a cynic and sarcastic Jackson said Friday, “I think Willis Reed missed a whole half and three quarters almost of a game and literally had to have a shot, a horse shot, three or four of them in his thigh to come back out and play. Paul got carried off and was back on his feet in a minute.”
Pierce, who had to be hoisted in his teammates’ arms and taken from the floor in excruciating pain, summoned his strength and returned to Game 1 of the NBA finals despite a sprained right knee and led the Boston Celtics to a 98-88 win in Game 1 of the NBA finals over Los Angeles.
Pierce’s gutty comeback ó to some ó drew immediate comparisons to a more famous one made by Reed, the Knicks center who dragged himself onto Madison Square Garden’s court for Game 7 of the 1970 finals against the Lakers despite a severe knee injury.
Jackson was there that night 38 years ago in New York. He was Reed’s teammate. And as far as Jackson is concerned, Pierce is no Willis Reed.
“I don’t know if the angels visited him in that timeout period that he had or not, but he didn’t even limp when he came back out on the floor, Jackson said. “I don’t know what was going on there. Was (well-known faith healer) Oral Roberts back there in their locker room?”
The NBA’s well-spaced schedule turned the talk before Game 2 on Sunday to miracle cures, conspiracy theories and MRIs. It also brought out some skepticism about the severity of Pierce’s injury, which initially looked as if it might trim Boston’s Big Three by a third.
Jackson’s doubts about Pierce’s injury ó he was out of the game for less than two minutes ó were relayed to Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who dismissed them with a smile.
“Oh, I don’t care,” Rivers said. “Aren’t we skeptics anyway now about everything? So what the heck; let it begin. Let it begin. Lee Harvey Oswald did it.”
Boston center Kevin Garnett wasn’t so amused by Jackson’s take on the injury to his good friend, the Celtics’ captain.
“It’s not up to them to approve or disapprove or to judge,” he said. “The man got carried off the court, that’s pretty significant. He looked pretty hurt, came in and finished the game off. I know it don’t look easy and he made it probably look a little easy, but at the same time, they wasn’t over there seeing him grimacing, the massaging and on the bike and ice and that stuff.
“When you don’t know what’s going on the other side, you just make up stuff.”
Pierce, who scored 22 points and made consecutive 3-pointers in the third quarter from the same spot to give Boston the lead for good, reported his knee was stiff and swollen and that he would spend the next two days getting treatment.
If not for the off day, Pierce said he would not have been able to play on Friday,
“I can walk on it, I can bend it, but there’s a little sharp pain on the inside of my knee,” he said.
Pierce said there was a “great chance” he’ll be able to play on Sunday when the Celtics attempt to take a 2-0 lead.
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