Sam Smith puts on his best Oliver Stone hat and offers this evaluation:
Yes, this guy wearing Pierce's jersey is averaging 20.1 points in the series tied 1-1 with Game 3 at the United Center Thursday.
But he's been relatively uninvolved.
He can't seem to get separation on his move to create space and seems to have little lift on his shot. He doesn't seem to have any explosion to the basket and seems to avoid playing in the middle of the floor where he's most dangerous.
I think Pierce is hurt.
I ran that by an NBA guy and he agreed that it sure looked like it. We haven't seen Pierce play this indifferently in two years. Finals MVP. Team leader. I had been thinking maybe with Kevin Garnett out Pierce had just given up, knowing the Celtics would not repeat.
But I've seen a changed player the last two years, a real competitor who's almost impossible to stop. It doesn't make sense.
You say we haven't heard anything about it with Garnett and now Leon Powe out injured. Of course, everyone in Boston seemed to think Garnett was fine and would be playing at near full health to open the playoffs. Until Doc Rivers said Garnett could barely move. Big difference there.
The football Patriots apparently were in some sort of spy scandal. Anything seems possible in the Boston sporting world.
I can't wait till Pierce drops 30 on 'em tonight.
Note: Hardwood Paroxysm has been trying to tell everyone for months that Pierce is hurt - see this post on April 7 for an example: "Paul Pierce is doing an amazing job of hiding a knee injury that hobbles him every other quarter." (also see here and here)
Me? I think he's over 30, was not super-athletic to begin with, and he's played more defense in the last 2 years than he's played all his life. He might be wearing down but he can still pick his spots.