BOSTON, Massachusetts (AFP) — Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson adopted a cynical attitude Friday toward Paul Pierce's right knee injury and how quickly he the Boston star returned to spark a Celtics victory.
Pierce went down in the third quarter Thursday but returned minutes later to give Boston the lead for good with back-to-back 3-pointers in a 98-88 win over the Lakers in game one of the National Basketball Association Finals.
Pierce hinted he might have had heavenly help in returning so fast but Jackson was skeptical despite watching Pierce carried off the court by teammates and later pedaling a stationary bicycle moved near Boston's bench.
"Paul got carried off and was back on his feet in a minute," Jackson said. "I don't know if the angels visited him in that time-out period or what, but he didn't even limp when he came back out on the floor. I don't know what was going on back there. Was (US preacher) Oral Roberts in their locker room?
"He certainly carried some energy back on the floor for them."
The idea that Pierce - whose nickname is "The Truth" - might be faking an injury aggravated Celtics forward Kevin Garnett, who denied any notion of a "sham" in the shamrock for the irish-themed Celtics.
"It's not up to them to approve or disprove or to judge. He hurt. The man got carried off the court. I mean, that's pretty significant," Garnett said.
"I know he made it look a little easy but they weren't over there seeing him grimacing, the massage and on the bike and stuff like that. When you don't know what's going on on the other side, you just make stuff up."
Celtics coach Doc Rivers laughed off Jackson's comments, playing up any notion of a conspiracy theory by invoking the name of the assassin of former US President John Kennedy in the 1960s leader's home state.
"Whatever it takes. All I know is he came back out on the floor and played. I'm good with that," Rivers said. "I don't care. Aren't we all skeptics anyway now about everything? What the heck. Let it begin. Lee Harvey Oswald did it."
Pierce has refused to have an MRI exam until after the best-of-seven series is concluded, not wanting to miss the biggest games of his life even at the risk of doing more damage to the first knee injury of his career.
Told of Jackson's feelings, Pierce replied, "Well I don't know what to say."
NBA Most Valuable Player Kobe Bryant, whom Pierce was trying to defend when he collided with teammate Kendrick Perkins and went down, said the Lakers were unfazed by Pierce's exit and return, which ignited cheers from Celtics fans.
"Paul Pierce drama? I don't think it affected us at all," Bryant said. "He's a friend. I was happy to see him come out there until he made those two damn threes."
Lakers veteran Derek Fisher, like Bryant a three-time NBA champion, also expressed doubts about divine intervention for Pierce.
"I think He has bigger problems to worry about than who wins the NBA Finals," Fisher said. "Although at times He has proven to be quite a sports fan."
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