I read an article here on Bleacher Report a little over a week ago in which the author claimed that Kobe Bryant should rightly be considered Mr. Clutch, based on his recent fourth-quarter performance against the Nuggets.
In that game, claimed the author, Kobe "stood up from the bench and took off his sweats. Enter Mr. Clutch. In the corner beyond the arc and tightly guarded, his sights locked on the basket, Bryant went to work".
With "the Lakers look[ing] certain to suffer their first loss of the season with eight minutes remaining" (actually, the Lakers led the game with eight minutes to go, but let's overlook that slight distortion of the truth since it undermines the myth of Kobe's alleged greatness), Bryant proceeded to grab two rebounds and score fourteen points, shooting four of eight from the field (including one three-pointer) and five of six from the free-throw line.
In Kobe's time on the court, the Lakers turned a two-point lead into a seven-point victory. That's a five-point difference, for those of you keeping score at home.
Of course, that's a huge improvement over Bryant's performance in last year's Finals, where he went missing in the second half of game four, as the Celtics erased a 24-point deficit to post a record-breaking come-from-behind win in LA.
The fourth quarter in the Nuggets game also eclipsed Bryant's performance in the "win or go home" Game Six in Boston, where the Lakers were pounded by a record 39-point margin. Yes, Mr. Clutch.
Now, let's look at what Paul Pierce did last night. If Bryant's fourth quarter performance in the recent Nuggets game is further evidence that Kobe is Mr. Clutch, then what should we make of Pierce's performance in the fourth quarter against the Raptors last night?
The Celtics trailed by eight points to start the quarter (which Pierce played from start to finish), but ended up winning by seven. That's a fifteen-point turnaround, for those of you keeping score at home.
Individually, Pierce scored 22 points in the quarter, making seven of nine shots (including both of his three-point shot attempts) from the field, and six of seven free throws. Pierce also picked up three rebounds, dished out two assists, and had one turnover.
The Celtics were playing the second game of a tough back-to-back, as they had just returned from their victory over the Pistons in Detroit the previous evening. The Lakers played the Nuggets after a two-day break.
I will not be so bold as to claim that Paul Pierce is better than "Mr. Clutch." Nor will I perpetuate any myth about his achievements. Instead, I will let the numbers tell the truth about the Truth.
UPDATE, 12 November 2008, 10:27pm:
After the Celtics erase a 16-point deficit against the previously unbeaten Hawks, Pierce knocks down a last-second, game-winning shot to propel Boston to a one-point (103-102) victory over Atlanta. Pierce's statline: 34 points on 8 of 14 field goal shooting; 15 of 16 (5 of 5 in the fourth quarter) free throw shooting. Paul Pierce, the new Mr. Clutch?