Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big storyline. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump..
Pierce, battling a terrible shooting slump, connected on 6 of 15 shots overall, but it wasn’t the fact that he missed nine attempts; it was the fact that he passed up open looks in key moments and then let the game slip away with a turnover on the Celtics’ final possession as the Knicks escaped with their first win in Boston since 2006.
With the Celtics down 84-82 with little more than two minutes to go, a driving Avery Bradley kicked to Pierce at the top of the key. Pierce, 0-for-12 over the past five games from beyond the top of the arc, elected to get a charging Jason Kidd in the air with a pump fake, then stepped up to his elbow sweet spot. Even with a triangle of defenders including Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith in front of him, Pierce had space to get up a shot. Instead, he kicked to Avery Bradley, who missed a corner 3 that would have given Boston the lead.
“I’m taking the Paul shot,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “Nothing against Avery, but Paul Pierce wide open at the elbow? He turned into Kevin Garnett for one play, where you want him to shoot and he makes the pass. You can’t fault him for moving the ball.”
Pierce came out and looked like he was going to deliver another vintage performance. And while there is no doubt in my mind that some of Pierce’s current problem is simply due to a 35 year-old player coasting through stretches to preserve himself for the important part of the schedule, there’s also the part that sees him not hitting the shots he’d normally hit even in mid-coast.
Worse, though, was the final minute and those two turnovers, and passing up what would normally be a good look for him so Avery Bradley can shoot a corner 3. Don’t get me wrong, Bradley’s ability to hit that shot has developed nicely, but there were at least two different instances on that possession that seemed like good spots for Pierce to shoot.
And the turnovers… well… those were bad. There was good defense by the Knicks, no doubt, but there’s also no doubt those plays should have been made.
I don’t know if Pierce’s impending mortality has something to do with it (this quote about the All Star game isn’t heartening: ”You knew eventually that day was going to come. You have a lot of young, great players in this league that have really stepped up this year. And they are all well-deserving”). Maybe the guy who called everyone out about a lack of confidence is suffering through the loss of some of his own.
Or maybe it’s just a slump, and Pierce will be back to his old self at some point. As much as we all want to make this a 2+2=old argument, it’s also possible Pierce will snap out of it at some point and return to the efficiency that has marked the past few years of his career.
That’s yet to be seen, though. And until it does, the light will shine brighter on the Captain, leaving him in a hauntingly familiar position: the overly scrutinized best scoring option on a bad team.
The rest of the links:
CSNNE: C’s lose 5th straight | Uneven play makes wins hard to come by | Camby: Garnett is an intense player | Pierce left off All Star team for the first time since 2007 | ESPN Boston: Loss overshadows Rondo’s triple double | Pierce left off All Star reserves | Ainge: Rives was frustrated in Detroit | WEEI: Melo: feud “overrated” | Rondo’s triple double can’t break skid | LeBron thinks Pierce got snubbed | Doc reiterates “I’ve got to find a way” | Globe: Pierce left off All Star team | Knicks silence Celtics | Little fight in Melo & KG | Herald: C’s deny pumping in sound | KG more than a mouthful | Melo, KG agree to make peace on the court | Better Celtics still taste defeat | Feud over, not losses | MWDN: Slide hits five