BOSTON, Massachusetts (AFP) — Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce expects to play Sunday in the National Basketball Association Finals despite a sore right knee that he will not have examined until after the title series.
The 30-year-old forward said Friday he is refusing to have an MRI exam to determine the exact extent of the injury he suffered in Thursday's 98-88 game one victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, even though he risks long-term damage.
"There's a great chance I will play on Sunday, just knowing myself, knowing my threshhold for pain," Pierce said Friday. "Either I can play or if I can't regardless of what the MRI says. Just wait until the season is over."
Pierce was hurt in his NBA Finals debut after a decade of frustration with the Celtics, who have not won the NBA crown since 1986. The Boston captain refuses to miss the biggest games of his life despite a sharp pain in his knee.
"It could still be worse that I'm really putting it off. I'm not planning on getting an MRI until after the season," Pierce said. "It could be bad. But right now I'm just getting treatments and see how I feel on Sunday."
Losing Pierce for game two Sunday would be a crippling blow to the Celtics' hopes of extending their record number of league crowns to 17 by defeating the arch-rival Lakers in the best-of-seven showdown.
"I don't think he could play today but he will be ready by Sunday," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "Just watching him walk you can see it's tender, it's stiff. It has swollen a little bit. No structural damage, which is good news."
But that is only the opinion of doctors and not based upon the best exam possible for the first knee injury of Pierce's career.
"What is it really going to tell us?" Pierce said. "With two weeks left, six games to go, we can figure this out after the season.
"The knee is pretty sore. It's a little stiff," Pierce said. "I most likely wouldn't be able to play today. Thank goodness we get a couple days. I'm just going to evaluate, see how I feel after treatments and Sunday go from there."
Pierce was injured in the third quarter when teammate Kendrick Perkins landed on Pierce foot while both were trying to defend NBA Most Valuable Player Kobe Bryant, Perkins injuring his ankle on the play as well.
"With Perk, it's a high ankle sprain, which is never good, but he will be ready for Sunday," Rivers said. "I expect both of them to play, honestly. I don't know how much they can give us yet.
"It helps not playing until Sunday. That gives them a couple days to recover."
Pierce fell to the court writhing in pain and grabbing his right knee. He was later carried off the court but returned minutes later and hit two key 3-pointers late in the quarter to give Boston the lead for good.
"He just gave us energy and we fed off of it, offensively and defensively," Celtics standout P.J. Brown said. "It was huge. It was a great lift," added Boston guard Rajon Rondo.
The Celtics kept their poise after Pierce went down and were able to shut down the Lakers in the final minutes despite Kevin Garnett missing nine shots in a row down the stretch. Garnett was happy to see Pierce doing well Friday.
"He was bright-eyed normal Paul Pierce like we are used to seeing coming in," Garnett said. "He seemed to be upbeat and normal."
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