Bill Russell's run in this tourney came to an abrupt halt last week when he ran up against Larry Bird. Now, we have the matchup we anticipated. #1 overall seed Larry Bird vs. #2 overall seed Paul Pierce.
This is an intense matchup. Their names sit next to each other in many of the Celtics' all-time categories. Bird is #1 in points per game (24.3), but Pierce is second (22.2). Pierce will pass Larry Bird this season for total points. They're both amazing offensive players. Both are underrated defensive players. And each has strengths that can exploit the others' weaknesses.
If I had one magical basketball wish, watching these two play a serious game of 1-on-1 might be what I ask for. Sadly, we'll have to settle for this.
We'll start the voting today, and reveal with winner on Friday. Here we go… Bird vs. Pierce… in the Ultimate 1-on-1 Final Showdown.
(1) Larry Bird:
1-on-1 Advantage: Shooting, scoring, intelligence. Bird is a do-it-all player in the 1-on-1 game. His ability to hit from anywhere on the court makes him dangerous against anyone. He makes up for any deficiencies in speed by forcing you to play up on him and then setting you up for any move he wants to make. He's a pretty good rebounder too, and his basketball IQ will let him know within a fraction of a second whether his shot is going to be off or not, giving him an edge to get to the rebounds.
1-on-1 Disadvantage: Speed. Bird isn't a fast guy. He can be exploited with a quick first step, especially if he has to respect a jumper. If a player can consistently hit from mid-range and force Bird to play up on him, then he might have a chance to get by for a layup. Just don't miss.
(2) Paul Pierce
1-on-1 Advantage: Scoring, shooting, size. Pierce is a total 1-on-1 package. Tommy Heinsohn calls him the best pure scorer in Celtics history for a reason. Pierce can hit from long range, he can drive and dunk on you, and he can hit that deadly step back from mid-range. Pierce uses his size in many ways. He uses his shoulders to hold off defenders on drives and he can back a smaller guy down if he wants. He's also a pretty good rebounder for a 3-man.
1-on-1 Disadvantage: Speed. The only place Pierce may lack is some foot speed. He's still a pretty good defender despite that, but he is still susceptible to a quick first step. A smaller quick guard could get by Pierce if he plays too tight.