After the Celtics took game 2 at Staples, Paul Pierce vowed that his Celtics “ain’t goin back to L.A.”
Well, after Pierce posted only 15 points, shot barely over 40% from the field and had more fouls (5) than rebounds and assists combined (two apiece), he may finally be on his way to backing up his words—just not the way he intended.
These latest antics leave us to wonder whether Pierce is really this arrogant or if he’s incapable of realizing that he’s up against a much different Finals opponent than he was in 2008?
He ran his mouth excessively back then too, but that Laker team spent the majority of their time trying to defend him with Vladimir Radmonovich, who isn’t exactly known as a defensive stalwart. Even when Radmonovich was on the bench, those Lakers were forced to go against Pierce with the much smaller, injury hampered Trevor Ariza—quite a step down from Ron Artest.
To be frank, Paul Pierce doesn’t resemble the guy he was two years ago anyway. He’d been showing as much throughout the duration of the playoffs, posting both his lowest post-season scoring average since his rookie season (18 ppg) and a career post-season low 4.4 rebounds.
Don’t get me wrong, its not that Pierce’s brash prediction was the first ill-advised remark of the series. When Pau Gasol remarked that Kevin Garnett had “lost some explosiveness” I cringed. The remark wasn’t an all out attack or even a particularly malicious critique, but why risk making a remark that could be taken so far out of context?
Why risk waking a sleeping giant—particularly one that had given you and the rest of your team such difficulty only two years ago?
But still, that remark was a far cry Pierce’s guarantee.
But this is nothing new. It seems as though the reigning champion Lakers have been the team everyone’s been inclined to criticize or make guarantees against all post-season long.
In the playoffs’ second round, several analysts remarked that the Lakers were “lucky” to face a Jazz team dealing with so many health problems, completely ignoring the various injuries the Lakers were contending with.
In the series against Phoenix, Stoudemire called Lamar Odom’s 19 point, 19 rebound performance in game 1 “lucky." While Odom had ups and downs in the following games, Stoudemire struggled to do anything but score as the series developed. Stoudemire’s oft-maligned defense was as bad as its ever been and he only managed two grab 8 rebounds—total—in the final two games of the series.
Even Steve Nash showed a rare lapse in judgment, guaranteeing his Suns would win game 6 of the Western Conference Finals and return to Staples for game 7—and we saw how that turned out.
Now its Pierce’s turn.
Though Laker Nation should be sure that the Celtics will do all in their power to respond in a must-win game 4, they will likely take Pierce’s words with a grain of salt from this point on, and they should.
In the playoffs so far, Pierce’s quotes have been more memorable than his game and this series has been no different.
In fact, the only time Pierce was even close to making a real game changing difference was when he threatened to respond to Fisher’s 3 point play, which put the Lakers up by 7 with under 50 seconds to go, with an and-one 3 point play of his own 10 seconds later—until he choked on the free throw.
When the Celtics took a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals and a hacker reportedly got into Paul Pierce’s Twitter account, posting “Anyone got a broom?,” Dwight Howard’s response summed it up best: “Pride comes before a fall."
Being the face of your team and the self-acclaimed “best player in the world” comes with little wiggle room and coming up so short in the most important home game of the season to date can’t be easily redeemed—but maybe the Celtics’ loss can actually turn into a good thing for Pierce.
Maybe now he’ll keep his mouth shut and try to do his talking on the court, at least for the duration of the series. Lately it seems that nothing coming out of Pierce’s mouth could be further from the truth.