Last night, Paul Pierce put together a game that will certainly go down in the annals of the Boston Celtics as one of the most warrior-esque performances in that franchise’s history. After receiving numerous injuries, Pierce returned to the game against the Miami Heat and scored 37 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead the Celtics to a 121-119 overtime victory. What made the game special was not just Pierce’s fabulous numbers, but the amazing series of setbacks that Pierce overcame to lead his team to victory. In the postgame press conference Ray Allen called Pierce’s performance “amazing” and said that he was “a true warrior”
About 3 minutes into the game, Ray Allen stole the ball from LeBron James and threw the ball the length of the court to Pierce. Pierce went up for a layup and was hammered to the floor by Udonis Haslem. The team doctor brought Pierce back to the dressing room and after a series of x-rays determined that he had a fractured orbital bone in his face. Grasping the importance of the game, Pierce put on a plastic, Rip Hamilton mask and returned to action with 3 minutes left to go in the quarter.
Upon his return to the floor, Pierce scored 6 quick points. He threw in a great slashing layup to tie the game up at 27. Unfortunately for Pierce, he landed off balance on his right ankle causing a severe sprain. Pierce was carried off the floor to the locker room by several teammates and it looked like he would be lost for the game. Three minutes after Pierce went to the locker room he miraculously ran out of the tunnel and on to the court just in time for the beginning of the second quarter.
Pierce faced more suffering in the second quarter. While taking a jump shot, Pierce was shot in the back by a deranged Heat fan in the 8th row. The shooter, Karl Lee Wiley, was arrested immediately by security. Pierce, who was lying on the court in a pool of blood, was carried on a stretcher to an ambulance. As the ambulance was driving away, Pierce burst out of the back and ran towards the court. With 2 minutes left in the second quarter, Pierce checked back into the game. Coach Doc Rivers was truly impressed. “I’ve had players play through injuries before, but I’ve never seen a player overcome a gunshot wound and go back in the game. Paul is a true warrior.”
The second half was also quite difficult for Pierce. While drinking contaminated Gatorade before the half begun he contracted a severe case of dysentery. Pierce spent much of the next 10 minutes shaking and running to the bathroom. He became delirious when he was in the locker room and claimed that he saw Larry Bird, Robert Parrish and Kevin McHale walking through the door. Yet somehow, Pierce was able to get his symptoms under control and return with 6 minutes left in the third quarter.
Pierce continued to play an inspired game. He went up for a monstrous dunk to cut the Heat’s lead to 9 with 7:22 left in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, his fingers got hooked on the webbing of the net and he was stuck, hanging by one arm in the air. Doctors, worried that Pierce could die from being suspended in mid-air for too long, immediately amputated the arm allowing Pierce to be freed. Pierce was again rushed to the locker room by the medical staff. But, it a moment reminiscent of Willis Reed’s injured return to the court during the Knicks championship game in the 70s, Pierce came out of the tunnel with only one arm and checked back into the game with 2 minutes remaining. Showing no effects from the terrible, arm amputation surgery he had only moments earlier, Pierce quickly fired in two three pointers to tie the game at 107 and send it to overtime. “He’s simply a warrior,” said Celtics Forward Kevin Garnett, “and this was the most warrior-like performance I’ve ever seen.”
During overtime, Pierce suffered a severe concussion, a brain aneurysm, a broken leg, was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and a contracted a severe staph infection. With 3 minutes remaining, Pierce’s heart stopped and he collapsed on the court. Medics pronounced him dead on the scene and began to cart him off the floor, but somehow his heart began beating again and he returned to action. On a night where nothing could stop him, Pierce threw in a jumper from the corner with 2 seconds remaining giving the Celtics the victory. Shaquille O’Neal added 19 points and 12 rebounds as the Celtics pulled ahead of the Heat for the best record in the NBA’s Eastern Division. Pierce expects to play tomorrow night when the Celtics travel to Sacramento to face the Kings.