After meeting three times in the NBA Finals during the 1980s, the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers didn’t renew their rivalry with a championship on the line until 2008. Like in decades past, there was no shortage of stars on the respective rosters.
The Celtics reloaded the offseason prior to the Finals matchup, acquiring Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to spawn the creation of a “Big three,” as they joined Paul Pierce. The Lakers were sparked by a midseason trade for Pau Gasol that vaulted them to the top of the Western Conference.
Boston earned home-court advantage in the NBA Finals by virtue of securing the league’s best regular-season record. The opener of historic matchup, played June 5, 2008, quickly became known as some variation of the “Paul Pierce Wheelchair Game.”
With just under seven minutes remaining in the third quarter, Pierce collided with teammate Kendrick Perkins and went to the ground in a heap of pain. Grabbing at his right knee, Pierce was carried off the court.
He was put in a wheelchair and taken to the Celtics locker room for further examination. The Celtics’ championship hopes seemingly appeared dashed. But, miraculously, Pierce missed less than two minutes of game action and returned to the court simply wearing a sleeve.
He further ignited the Celtics crowd by knocking down two 3-pointers in 22 seconds. Boston went on for a 98-88 win in Game 1, and claimed their 17th championship in franchise history by defeating the Lakers in six games.
Pierce maintained after the dramatic series opener that he heard a pop in his knee. In addition to making a quick recovery, he never showed any ill-effects or signs of a serious injury the rest of the way.
Pierce averaged 21.8 points per game, 4.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists to earn NBA Finals MVP honors. But his best accomplishment may have been making a miraculous recovery.
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