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Let’s not overreact. Let’s not do what The Sports Hub’s Felger and Mazz did today. Let’s not pretend what happened in Game 2 was something more than it really was.
Paul Pierce recorded 36 points and and grabbed 14 rebounds in Game 2 against the Hawks. Is 36 points impressive? Sure. Is 14 rebounds impressive? Absolutely.
Does his performance remind me of the great Paul Pierce performances of all-time? Does it remind me of the great Celtic performances of all-time? Does it remind me of the great NBA performances of all time?
Not even close.
Just looking at Game 2 independent of any comparisons, it took Pierce 26 shots to score his 36 points – not an efficient performance. He played 44 minutes (most on the team) in a game the Celtics won by seven, and yet his +/- was only +4 (Kevin Garnett, Avery Bradley, Ryan Hollins, and Marquis Daniels were all better). In other words, don’t let the points fool you.
Recalling Pierce’s other great playoff performances, Game 5 against the 76ers in the first round of the 2002 playoffs comes to mind. That night, Pierce scored 46 points on 16-25 shooting (one fewer shot and 10 more points than Game 2 against the Hawks). That was an epic performance in an elimination game against an Allen Iverson-led team. Thirty-six points against the Hawks in a Game 2? It’s nice, but it’s not one we’ll remember.
What’s even more damning to Pierce’s performance is that it isn’t even the best playoff performance from a member of his own team in the past three years. In 2010, Rajon Rondo had a performance against the Cavaliers that still seems improbable. He scored 29 points, delivered 13 assists, and most impressive of all, grabbed 18 rebounds. A triple double in the second round against LeBron James’ Cavs? That’s epic.
Dare we even begin to compare Pierce’s performance against the greatest NBA playoff performances of all-time? Let’s try just a couple. How about Shaquille O’Neal scoring 28 points, grabbing 20 rebounds, delivering nine assists, and blocking eight shots in 2001? How about Michael Jordan scoring 55 points on 37 shots in 1993? I could go on, but for now, here’s a list of staggering playoff performances that are nothing short of unbelievable.
Paul Pierce’s performance in Game 2 was necessary, important, impressive and vital to the team’s win. But it was not by any means epic, legendary, or unforgettable. He did, as the team’s captain and best scorer, what he was supposed to do with a short-handed team. Pierce shot the ball 26 times out of necessity, not because he’s that type of scorer at this point in his career.
While Pierce has proven himself to be a great playoff performer, his Game 2 numbers did not reflect what Paul Pierce was once – and maybe is still – capable of.