How many times has Tommy Heinsohn yelled the following statement in his life; “GIVE THE BALL TO PIERCE!” I’m thinking he said this phrase about 50 million times, just a rough estimate. Well right on Tommy, I second that notion. Give the ball to Pierce.
The Celtics have been giving the ball to their Captain lately and they’re winning games. No coincidence. Celtics have won 5 out of their last 6 and appear to be regaining their championship form. The main reason for their success as of late is the resurgence of Paul Pierce.
Pierce is a warrior. He plays with injuries. If it was playoffs and he got mauled by a bear and lost his right arm, he would be in the starting lineup and shooting lefty. Pierce has been banged up this season. Some of the injuries we know about like the infection in his knee that sidelined him for almost 3 weeks. Some of the injuries we don’t know about because he’s played through them. For the first time since the beginning of the season, Pierce is feeling healthy.
Last week, Pierce earned the Eastern Conference player of the week for his superior performances. He’s kept it going this week too by helping the Celtics beat a great Denver team at home Wednesday night. Look at Pierce’s numbers over their past five wins:
Opponent Points fgm-fga 3 ptm-3pta ftm-fta
Detroit Pistons 15 4-6 1-3 6-7
NY Knicks 29 11-17 3-6 4-5
Houston Rockets 26 9-14 2-3 6-8
Dallas Mavericks 29 10-17 1-5 8-10
Denver Nuggets 27 10-16 0-3 7-7
Celtics one loss over the streak was to the Utah Jazz where Pierce had an off night; shooting 3-13 from the field.
Free throws are the best way to gage Pierce’s health. If he’s getting to the line, that means he’s driving hard to the basket and putting pressure on the defense. Although Pierce won the 3 point contest this year and he’s been great from down town, he’s most effective when he’s driving to the hoop. He doesn’t allow defenses to dictate what they want to do against him. Defenses can’t play soft because Paul will burn them all night long. If they decide to play right up on him, he will either draw the foul or begin to drive and then spot up for a jumper or create double teams. When Pierce is driving, the Celtics’ offense clicks on all cylinders and they can be unstoppable at times.
I don’t say this enough, but Paul Pierce is one of the greatest Celtics to ever live. When he decides to hang up his shoes and retire, no other Celtic player will ever wear #34 again. His number will be raised to the rafters right next to Larry Bird’s. Offensively for the Celtics, I would put him right there next to Bird and John Havlicek. Not only does he have the career stats to rival Bird and Havlicek, but he’s got the same heart and competitiveness. With the game on the line, Pierce demands the ball.
The media and the fans weren’t always fair to Paul. Critics wanted to ship him out of here, as if he were the problem. Celtics didn’t have the talent to go far in the playoffs during the Antoine Walker – Jim O’Brien years. When Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge took over the team, the Celtics were very much a work in progress. Ainge blew up the team of the early 2000’s but kept the one key member, Paul Pierce. Pierce did his best to hold together a team with a bunch of young men in their late teens and early twenties. Pierce had the chance to go to free agency and leave Boston to play for a contender, but to everybody’s surprise he re-signed with Boston. Pierce re-signed with one condition, bring in some true veteran players and make a run at a championship. And as they say, the rest is history.
Paul Pierce and the Celtics are looking to make history again this year by raising banner 18 and they look like a contender for the first time since the beginning of the season.
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Written by johnw