Paul Pierce should not play tonight and not until his bummed knee improves. He is hurt. He is ineffective. The Celtics are a better team without him on the floor. Paul Pierce continuing to play injured does nothing to help the Celtics this post-season. The only thing that can help this team is his rest, and rest he should for as long as it takes to make some serious improvements in his knee.
Without Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen in game 2 against the Hawks a mere two weeks ago down 1-0 in the series, vintage Paul Pierce took over exactly when the Celtics needed him most. Scoring 36 (including several clutch baskets) while bringing down 14 rebounds, this is a game that truly depicts the type of player Paul Pierce is and will be remembered for. Under pressure, Pierce will go down as one of the best this game has ever seen and this performance justly portrays why. When the going gets tough, the tough gets going for Paul. This fact cannot be ignored.
There comes a time when a man physically cannot perform up to a reasonable speed due to an injury and the best thing for him to do is to sit. This is one of these times for Pierce. Additionally, Pierce has top-notch defender Andre Iguodala tracking his every step while holding him to 25% shooting from the field so far this series. A hobbled Paul Pierce is not going to have success against Andre Iguodala no matter what is on the line. He’s just not.
While Paul Pierce is arguably the best player on the Boston Celtics, he is not even the second most important player on this team. These two roles are interchangeably filled by Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett. Rondo runs this offense as the only true point guard on the roster while Garnett anchors the boards and defense as the only intimidating big. Not to mention, these are two of the best players in the game at what they do. Without Paul Pierce, the Boston Celtics can still play the same style of basketball as they would normally, especially going up against the 76ers.
Running the offense through Rondo and Garnett gives the Celtics their best chance to score on any given possession during this series. Garnett has a size advantage over both Elton Brand and Lavoy Allen while Spencer Hawes can’t come close to matching his quickness. Rondo is just Rondo and nobody can stop him from making plays except for his occasionally sporadic mind. Add Ray Allen, who looks like he has finally gotten his hot hand back, into the mix and you have the only big-3 needed to carry an offense against a young 76ers team. Avery Bradley, Mickael Pietrus, Brandon Bass, and the role players need to make their shots, but offensively this team should be fine without Pierce.
Analyzing the defensive side of the ball, it makes even more sense to rest Paul. He cannot keep up with these ever-so-athletic Philadelphia 76ers no matter who he’s guarding with this ailing knee. Pietrus and Bradley can eat away at his minutes and not only adequately fill his role on defense, but fill it more effectively. Adding the defense factor into the equation, which is a full 50% of the game, it makes even more sense to rest Pierce.
The Boston Celtics are championship contenders once again five years into a three year window. The only way they can come out on top is with a healthy Paul Pierce for both the Eastern Conference Finals and the Finals itself. If Pierce continues to play at what looks like far less than full strength, he is not going to get any healthier and this team will fall. If he takes some time to rest this knee while his teammates pick up the slack, as they should, another championship banner may just drop this coming fall. As Pierce did so in game 2 against the Hawks, it is now time for his teammates to come through and do for him as he did for them. Paul Pierce has a decision to make. Sometimes the truth hurts and the sooner Paul realizes this, the better it will be for the Boston Celtics.