BOSTON (CBS) — One year ago, everyone had hoped Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett would get one more shot at the Miami Heat in the postseason. No one could have imagined it would go down like this though, with both players wearing black and white instead of green.
Still, to the delight of Boston fans everywhere the day has come. Starting Tuesday night, Pierce, Garnett and the Brooklyn Nets will face off with the defending champions in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Before taking a closer look at the matchup, credit has to be given again to Danny Ainge for doing right both by his team and his longtime stars. After last year’s ugly first round exit against the New York Knicks, the writing was on the wall to break up Boston’s aging roster, which appeared to mean ending any championship aspirations for KG and Pierce together.
Dealing away a franchise legend like Pierce and a player like Garnett, who had committed to finishing his career in Boston, was no easy task. Somehow though, Ainge achieved the best possible scenario for the Celtics and the duo.
Instead of shipping Pierce away to the highest possible bidder last summer, Ainge made the decision to keep the pair together in a deal, keeping the possibility alive that this day would come when they would have another chance at taking down the champs.
“They don’t ever go away,” Erik Spoelstra told reporters Tuesday in Miami. “Seriously. Look up the storylines the last time we played the two guys when they were in the green in the playoffs. It was the same storylines. If anybody had forgotten, that series went seven.”
Things will be different this time around for the duo though. For the first time in a series against the Heat, Garnett and Pierce won’t be the focal points for Miami and that’s what gives the Nets a shot in this series. The Heat will have to focus their attention on players like Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and company, instead of throwing all of their resources at containing just Garnett and Pierce.
The versatile supporting cast the Nets have should also help in containing Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh on the offensive end. Pierce will no longer have to chase around James for much of the contest, as the Nets will have a rotating cast featuring Johnson, Shaun Livingston, Alan Anderson and Andrei Kirilenko they can throw at him and Wade.
Thanks to that, Pierce and Garnett will fall into more of a Ray Allen supporting role during this series. The sharpshooting guard thrived under diminished expectations in the playoffs last year for Miami, and Pierce and Garnett should be able to do the same for Brooklyn now, playing just 20-30 minutes per game.
The postseason is a different animal than the regular season, but the Nets became the first team ever to sweep the Lebron-lead Heat 4-0 in a season series. The critics will tell you that those games don’t matter, but you can bet there was a playoff-intensity in more than a couple of those contests. Miami has the edge, but these teams are pretty evenly matched across the board.
No matter what happens, there’s no doubt that members of the Celtics organization and fans will become temporary Nets fans over the next couple weeks, as two fan favorites will get one last chance to take down their longtime rivals.
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