Paul Pierce was battling flu-like symptoms last night (and a body that's "a little weak"), but it was probably his shooting that really made him sick: 1-9 from the field, including 0-5 from the arc. For those counting at home, Pierce hasn't made a three-pointer since December 1st. Since then, he is 0-16. Somewhere, even Ben Wallace cringes.
"I’m one of the great decoys in this game,’’ Pierce told the Boston Globe. He was only kidding. I think.
But Pierce's scoring isn't anything to worry about. At some point in the near future, those shots will fall again. At some point, the bricks will turn to swishes and Pierce will return to normalcy. At some point, his scoring touch is bound to make a reappearance.
When it does, he'll be playing complete basketball. His defense never abandoned him.
Look at last night, for example. In his younger days, a cold shooting night would have meant Pierce becoming disinterested. It probably would have resulted in Pierce forcing plenty of shots, talking junk to his opponents, and maybe picking up a technical foul in the process. Who knows? Maybe he even would have gotten ejected, then, after the game, wrapped his head in a bandage and pretended to be seriously injured.
No longer does Pierce's offense affect other parts of his game. Pierce's shooting wasn't just miserable yesterday; it was far beyond that. It was like seeing Andris Biedrins try to become a small forward. Okay, not that bad. I wouldn't wish Biedrins' shooting form on my worst enemy. But Pierce's offense was poor. The pill just wouldn't go in the hole. Yet he still did his job defensively.
He chased down D.J. Augustin, a la Lebron James, for the Celtics' block of the season. He broke up at least two 2-on-1 fast breaks with quick hands. He blocked two more shots. And, oh yeah, he harassed Gerald Wallace, an All-Star last season, to 2-15 shooting.
He was a leader, too. (Boston Globe)
With the Celtics leading by 10 points at halftime and the Bobcats hardly resembling a team ready for a second-half run — they had 32 points in the first half — Paul Pierce had a great idea but he needed Kevin Garnett’s help.
He looked to Garnett on the bench just as the second half was about to begin and said, "If you give us eight hard [minutes], then maybe we’ll be able to rest in the fourth quarter.’’
Pierce's performance was a lot like his whole team's. Defensive focus. That's how a team wins by 31 points in its worst shooting performance of the season. That's why Marquis Daniels was still running around deflecting passes with a minute remaining in a blowout. That's why Avery Bradley was still putting Shaun Livingston in a phone booth with three minutes left. That's why the Bobcats set a season-low for scoring, and it's why Michael Jordan was forced into delivering a "stern", "loud" post-game speech in the Charlotte locker room.
It all started with Pierce, who brought a "we'll win with defense" mentality right from the opening tip.
So you could look at the box score and conclude Pierce was awful last night. But me? I'll remember that defense is still half the game, leadership is an intangible every team needs, and Pierce's offense will come around.
As for the body that's "a little weak"? Let's hope it returns to full strength when the flu-like symptoms fade away. Pierce's defensive commitment is wonderful, but the Celtics need his offense, too.