Facing a 2-0 deficit, the Brooklyn Nets' season was on life support heading into Game 3. However, they managed to get back into the series with a clutch win over the Miami Heat on Saturday, and a portion of that victory can be attributed to Nets forward Paul Pierce doing yeoman's work defensively on Heat superstar LeBron James.
As Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN New York reports, it was Pierce's request to pick up the defensive assignment against James.
"I've definitely tried to do that," Pierce said. "I went to J-Kidd [for] Game 2 and said I want that assignment. ... I think I've guarded him more than anybody in this gym. I know his tendencies a little bit more and I just try to step up in that role and try to lead that way."
In addition to Pierce's defensive willingness and aptitude, his impact can be felt across the board for the Nets on both ends of the floor, and his belief in himself and his teammates led Pierce to reference Miami as "not unbeatable."
"You know you've got to have that type of mental [approach] when you're going against a juggernaut," Pierce explained about establishing a no-fear mental edge following Nets' practice. "When you go against the best ... a lot of series are won on fear factor, or the non-belief. When you have that non-belief, then you have no chance.
"What I try to do in this locker room and with my teammates is just try give them belief -- that we can beat this team. They're not unbeatable. You've got to have that mental [approach] if you're trying to get over that mountain that you're trying to climb."
Though Pierce hasn't exactly been dominant offensively in the series (averaging 11.7 points per game on 44.8% shooting), his attitude has been credited toward the resiliency of Brooklyn, and he has had easily the most success in attempting to slow down the 4-time NBA MVP. The biggest change on the defensive end has been Pierce's ability to stop LeBron from getting to the rim at will, and it will be exceedingly interesting to see if that continues in what will be a crucial Game Four on Monday night.