LeBron James is the most important player in any game he plays ever, simply because he has more talent and ability to dominate than any other player in the NBA -- Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant ... anybody. James doesn't end up as every game's most valuable player when it's all said and done, but in the lead-up, before the tip, he is the key. It'll be no different as the Miami Heat face the Boston Celtics in the second round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs.
Tom Haberstroh and the Stats and Info crew at ESPN looked at every last one of LeBron's 277 offensive possessions against the Celtics this season. As it turns out, Paul Pierce is the key to stopping James.
Pierce checked LeBron 69 percent of the time, with Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green and Marquis Daniels (no longer with the team) filling in the rest. But against Pierce, LeBron shot just 43 percent from the field and his efficiency plummeted to depths rarely seen from him. In fact, LeBron scored 75 points per 100 possessions with Pierce covering him, down from his 93 points per 100 possessions when guarded by all other Celtics defenders.
There's a flip side, of course; LeBron is one of the best wing defenders alive, and Pierce's own efficiency plummets when playing against James according to StatsCube. This season, Pierce shared the court with LeBron for 137 minutes. In those minutes, he averaged 12.9 points per 36 minutes on 42 percent shooting. For the season as a whole, Pierce averaged 19.6 points per 36 while shooting 50 percent.
There are a slew of great matchups in this season, but none more important than LeBron vs. Pierce.
Check out our Heat vs. Celtics hub for full series coverage.