The 2008 NBA Finals saw Paul Pierce desperately want to take on Kobe Bryant with him telling his teammates to back off on guarding him.
After winning merely 24 games in the ‘07 season, the Boston Celtics brought in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to help Paul Pierce claim his first ever NBA title. The very next season, the Celts boasted a 66-16 record, the greatest regular season turnaround in NBA history, and won the NBA championship with Pierce winning Finals MVP.
To claim the 2008 NBA championship, Boston had to go through their old foe in the Los Angeles Lakers, led by Kobe Bryant. Bryant was raring to go to win his first ever title with Shaq and an in-season trade to acquire Pau Gasol on February 1st, 2008 was exactly what he needed to accomplish this.
Unfortunately for the Lakeshow, their season ended in 6 games in the NBA Finals. Kobe Bryant averaged 25.7 points on 40% shooting from the field during this series while Paul Pierce wasn’t any better with an average of 21.8 points on 43.2% shooting.
The difference is that the Celtics had three guys average over 18 points a game. The Lakers’ next best scorer was Pau Gasol who averaged 14.7. The offensive rebounding was also quite an issue for the Lakers.
Paul Pierce was hellbent on guarding Kobe Bryant in the 2008 NBA Finals.
As if having a personal vendetta against Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce elected to guard the eventual 5x champ for a majority of the series. While this hampered his own offensive production, it did help slow Kobe down a tad bit.
Former Celtics big man, Leon Powe, told ‘The Athletic’:
“I remember in the Finals, Paul was picking up Kobe damn near full court. Full court! We got in a timeout, and we said, ‘You don’t have to pick up Kobe full court.’ He looked at us and said, ‘Nah! Nah! I got him! I got him! I don’t need no help!’ That’s all he kept saying. He kept repeating, ‘Don’t help me!’”
“But Paul was very insistent that, ‘I want to guard these guys. I want to do this.’” Powe said. “Then he would say, ‘I don’t need no help.’ We’d be inching over, and he’d send us back. We’d never seen P like that. He was just hell-bent on proving a point that he can guard Kobe, that he can guard for this team and do the necessary thing to win the championship”
Paul Pierce and the Celtics would eventually lose to the Lakers two years later as Kobe Bryant claimed his 5th ring in seven games.