Paul Pierce: 5 Ways He Impacts the Boston Celtics Offense
While the start of the new year is a great time of optimism for what 2012 may bring, it's also a wonderful time to reflection. For a life-long NBA fan like myself, it's another reminder that "man, time really does fly by!"
For the Boston Celtics and their fanbase, the first three games of the season brought some despair and the desire to switch the time back four years. In 2008, the Celtics were fully rejuvenated and on their way to their 17th championship.
Four years later, the goal is the same, and so is the core. Even more important, the captain remains the same. Paul Pierce, now in his 14th season, is the undisputed leader of this team. The 0-3 start by Boston was an indication that, if banner No. 18 had any chances of being pulled down at the start of next season, Pierce has to be the leading force.
"The Truth" validated that statement over the past few days, as the Celtics are now 3-0 with him in the lineup. Though a bruised heel slowed him down quite a bit, the competitiveness and fire he brings was still apparent.
"He's a very, very good teammate...He has a very, very high basketball IQ, and he's very talkative on the court. He knows how to play. And he's willing to give the ball up on his own. When you make sacrifices like that you impact everybody. It just gets overshadowed sometime by the scoring," he added.
And now, here's what Pierce brings to the table on offense, and why without him, Boston might as well trade Ray Allen and Garnett now...
Sasha Pavlovic was in Pierce's place for the first three games.
While he averaged a lousy four points per game as a starter, the Celtics still managed to find other scoring options as they currently rank in the top half of the league in scoring per game.
The surprisingly effective offense has come at the expense of their defense, however, something this team has always taken pride in.
The return of Pierce obviously takes a huge scoring load off Rajon Rondo and Boston's bigs. He allows others to concentrate on things other than putting the ball in the basket, while he and Ray Allen generate the points.
Though age has taken its toll on the former Kansas stand-out, he still has the ability to create his own shot off the dribble, and therefore, doesn't need plays run for him. Half of the teams in this league can't say the same for any of the players on their roster.
4. Three-Point Shooting
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Considering Boston has very few shooters on their team, it comes with a huge surprise that they currently lead the league in three-point percentage at 48.3, though they attempt the fifth-fewest from long range.
When it comes to natural scorers, like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, few have the ability to spot up from three. It seems pretty weird, but many scorers have difficulty shooting when not on the dribble, but Pierce has really strayed away from that towards the end of his career.
Known mostly for his step-back shot, Pierce really became more comfortable shooting when spotting up in the corner.
It's that type of skill that will allow him to extend his career longer than the others, who have the potential of suffering a similar fate as Allen Iverson.
3. Spreading the Floor
Equally as important with what he can do with the ball is what Pierce can do without it, and that's spread the floor. Part of the reason for Miami Heat's collapse last season in the finals against the Dallas Mavericks was their inability to score against the zone.
When teams play the Celtics, there's no way a zone will work against them with Pierce in the lineup. Having Allen and Pierce in both corners would be deadly, and you would bet that Rondo will find them when they're open as well.
Instead of playing off Pavlovic, teams will continue to pay close attention to Pierce as they've always done, opening up opportunities for others, including the big men.
2. Clutch Gene
Your team is down one point with five seconds remaining. Which player in the NBA would you want to take that last shot?
Most fans will say Kobe Bryant. After him, maybe Kevin Durant or Dirk Nowitzki.
There's no denying, however, that Paul Pierce is worthy of mention within that group. Time and time again, he's stepped up to the big stage and delivered when Doc Rivers has needed him the most.
The question is, can Pierce still hit the big shot at this age?
In the Celtics' second of back-to-back games against the Washington Wizards, I think he answered that question in the fourth quarter, hitting several big shots, including two three-pointers, to prevent things from getting close.
Though Ray Allen may be the better shooter of the two, again, there's the distinction of Pierce's ability to create his own shot off the dribble.
1. Energy and Competitiveness
No matter how bad of an offensive game he has, in the end, no one is going to question Pierce's competitiveness.
As one of the most passionate players in the game today, hustle, hard work and leadership will forever characterize Paul Pierce.
The 20,000-plus points will be the stat used to define his career, but there's much more to it.
There's a major difference speaking from the bench than from the floor, and the rest of Rivers' team couldn't be happier to have their captain back.
After a year in which several key players left the Celtics, Danny Ainge always knew that he needed his core group together to have a chance at another title. He knows he just needs to surround the big four—we'll call it that now—with competitive guys, and it's possible.
The fourth, and probably most important piece, is now back.
Ainge, Rivers and the rest of Celtic Nation expect nothing less than excellence. In these last three games—all wins—there's a huge sigh of relief expressed in Boston.