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Did Paul Pierce Have The Worst Half of His Career Last Night?

 

After watching the game last night, I was ready to accept the idea of blowing this team up.  Whether it was the 22 turnovers, the majority of which were flat out careless mistakes, or the 11 missed free throws or another 3rd quarter collapse, I couldn’t tell you exactly what pushed me over the edge, but I had had enough of this team.

Right then, I would have told Danny to make the deal, any deal to break up this crew. We needed new blood in here, younger blood, more motivated blood. There is a thing called Celtic pride and at first glance last night, this team didn’t seem to have any of it.

Then I woke up today, and decide to torture myself by re-watching the 2nd half of the Hornets game again. Was I overreacting to this one game? Possible, but not probable. Was this team’s inconsistency turning me into a fan who always went with a knee jerk reaction afterwards? Perhaps. Was it fair to give up on this squad? I couldn’t tell you. I went to the tape to find out and try to gain a bit more perspective on this one.

I am gladly say after watching those 24 minutes again, I felt better about last night’s performance and this team. You may laugh after reading that statement, but it is true. Am I excusing a pathetic effort? Absolutely not. However, am I willing to reconsider taking one regular season game before the All-Star break to be the final straw in blowing up this team after a dismal injury ridden 2 month stretch? Yes, I can gladly say I am.

This team right now may very well be fatally flawed. We won’t know that for sure until playoff time. For now though, this team’s main problems are mental and health related, not talent related, after last night’s game that much is clear to me. There are some choppy waters out there, but as ominous as the waves are right now, I’m not quite ready to jump overboard just yet. And I don’t think Danny Ainge is ready to either. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at the main reason not to overreact about last night’s collapse, based on one big idea.

Paul Pierce may have played the worst 2nd half of his professional career last night

That’s a lofty statement given how long his career has been. Pierce has incredibly hit 8 turnovers or more in his career 12 times. Amazingly, the C’s are 6-6 in those games. His all-time high is 12 turnovers against Charlotte a couple years back. Naturally, the C’s found a way to win that game. They key thing with Pierce though, having watched him my entire life, is that if he is struggling with taking care of the ball, he usually is doing enough good on other parts of the floor to help balance out the damage caused by the turnovers.

So what happened last night? The guy had 8 turnovers, and  after re-watching last night’s game one thing was painfully evident; Paul Pierce killed this team’s chances on both sides of the floor, even more than the final box score indicated.

Here was Paul’s 2nd half line for the night:

2 points on 1/6 shooting, 1 rebound, 0 free throw attempts, 0 steals, and 5 turnovers in 19 minutes.

If that is how your best offensive option is playing, you aren’t going to win many games. Pierce appeared to be running in concrete at times, as the injury limited his movement and clearly kept him from filling up the box score in other ways as we’ve seen so many other times through his career.

And the thing is, Paul Pierce was just as bad, if not worse on the defensive end. He, along with his other walking wounded teammate in Kevin Garnett, failed several times in the final 24 minutes to rotate and recover efficiently on defense, which provided countless 3 point opportunities and fast break chances for Morris Peterson. Mo Pete converted plenty of these to help get the Hornets back in the game.

Now I don’t mean to beat up on Paul Pierce here. The guy clearly still isn’t anything close to 100 percent. He isn’t a speedster even when healthy, but between his foot and any lingering effects from his knee injury, the guy has no lateral quickness at this point. He looks okay early in games but the injury has appeared to stiffen up on him in the 2nd halves of games recently. (Only 2/6 shooting for 4 points in 2nd half vs. Orlando)

I guess my point is a couple things. First, Paul Pierce isn’t this bad of a player and the team will be a lot better when he is back to his healthy self. This much I’m not worried about. The bigger issue for me is how much Paul Pierce was hurting this team while he was in there, especially when there are finally some viable replacements on the bench (Marquis Daniels anyone?)

I don’t put any of the blame on Paul for playing through this. The guy, as we all well know, is a trooper and doesn’t like to sit out games. This one, as far as I’m concerned, is on Doc. You have your best player, clearly hobbled, slowing his team down on both ends of the floor in the 3rd quarter. Then you have his replacement Marquis Daniels, who comes in during the 4th quarter and is keeping the Celtics in the game, shooting 4 of 4 from the field and providing the only real semblance of offense on a night where the rest of the team, especially the starters have come out flat offensively in the 2nd half.

Doc has to be able to see this. Now that he has options on his bench, he can’t be afraid to ride the hot hand, especially when the team is going through chemistry and health problems. Doc did this nicely in the 2nd quarter with the bench unit, but still fails to trust them outside of Rasheed Wallace in crunch time.

So what happens down the stretch when the starters get reinserted? They score 7 points in the final 6 minutes with Tony Allen providing 5 of those points. Everyone else in the starting lineup chipped in with a missed shot or turnover in that closing moments while Marquis Daniels rotted away on the bench with his 14 points.

Now Daniels is only in his 2nd game back from injury, and played 24 minutes in this one, so maybe Doc is trying to play it cautious with him. It’s clear though he was the best player on the floor last night for the C’s, yet didn’t see the floor down the stretch. That’s on Doc in my book.

A couple other semi “positive” bullets from this one

  • The 2nd half defense wasn’t that bad outside of Pierce’s and KG’s play. TA did an admirable job on Peja for the most part, and made him hit some tough shots. Eddie House had no real chance on Collison but that kid made some tough shots give him credit.
  • Marquis Daniels is better than even the most optimistic of fans would have expected. He is still grimacing a bit with that thumb though, hopefully that fades with time.
  • I really like this team’s bench when it is at full strength.
  • Rasheed, outside of the careless turnovers, had a very good game and it is consistently maddening to know he could probably do this on a nightly basis if he put his mind to it.
  • At minimum, 10 of the turnovers last night were unforced or stupid offensive fouls by this team. Things like that, you would want to think can be corrected.
  • TA was the only starter on this team attacking the basket in the 4th quarter.
  • Rajon Rondo looked disinterested in this game. He had no real interest in imposing his will on the Hornets throughout the contest.
  • Kendrick Perkins has turned into the old Perk on the offensive end. No touch or confidence around the hole. Hopefully it is just a slump, but it’s easy to forgot how important those 12 points a game were that he was averaging prior to this month. For February? 6.8 points and 4.8 rebounds a game.

With numbers like those, it’s easier to see how there is no easy solution for this team right now. It’s not just The Big Three who are struggling, it’s all the starters right now that are out of whack. The good news is the bench is running on all cylinders and ready to help in the short term. Doc needs to be willing to rely on them more as the team heads out West.

A healthy, rested Ray Allen would help too along with a natural backup point guard. Make it happen Danny. For now though, relax Celtics fans. Despite a pitiful stretch, this team is still only 2 games out of 2nd place in the East. For as bad as it is, the team could be in a far worse spot right now. And though they haven’t shown the ability to put it all together, I’m not ready to give up completely just yet.

  • Cptn Bubbles

    This organization needs more ACCOUNTABILITY. It’s too bad the old Red is not here. He wouldn’t put up with this crap. Danny needs to really get in Doc’s face about leaving Paul in the game & not playing Quis (Doc did the same idiotic thing at the Pacers earlier this year when Pierce was hobbling around & left Paul in to finish that game). Doc needs to be accountable to someone, but it looks like everyone is too buddy-buddy right now. Currently, Doc is not worried about anything he does & neither are the players.

    Doc needs to feel some heat for these bad decisions. Then, Doc needs to make the players feel some heat & be accountable for their actions on the court. If they stink it up on the court then sit them on the bench. When is the last time you saw Doc sit anyone ????

    E House has got to play better D or sub him out QUICK. I’d rather see TA or Quis play the whole 2nd half than to see every point guard in the league driving by Eddie for layups. It’s ridiculous. Orlando’s Jason William’s is 34 years old & he was flying by Eddie like he was tortoise. Look how easy Collison got around Eddie again & again & again. How many plays in a row did Collison take it straight to the rim? 1 time Collison got the inbound pass & dribbled the ball the full length of the court. Eddie had half a court lead waiting on Collison at the top of the key, & Eddie still could not stay in front of Collison. Eddie even had a hard time with 5′ 5 Earl Boykins. Eddie has gotten worse on defense. He cannot stay in front of anyone. If he could make a 3 for every layup he gives up then this would not be an issue.

  • Cptn Bubbles

    but 70% of the time his toe is on the 3pt line even if he makes the shot.

  • sam_lt

    Thanks, I really needed that. Great perspective, no way I could watch that game again.

  • steve

    That second half was like Groundhog Day. Every play down the court just like the one before, turnover. Of course in the movie Bill Murray finally learns from his mistakes and is able to leave town. Let’s hope the C’s figure things out too.
    Paul is struggling lately and I hope he can shake it off. Like the way the team plays it seems strange to see him be dominant in some games and then have a clunker like last night. Like KG, it seems he wants to do it but sometimes the body just lets you down.

  • legs-diamond

    Brian Robb, you’re right on the money. Watching the game I kept thinking, Doc, get Pierce out, leave him out, he’s injured. … Celtics fans may remember 1987 when K.C. Jones played the starters into the ground and by the Finals there five of their best six players were playing with injuries, McHales ankle chips most demonstrably. … Doc has keep Pierce on the pine, let Shelden Williams get minutes, ensjoy the return of Marquis Daniels, let Davis play his way back in, keep KG’s minutes low until the last weeks of the season. Who cares if they lose games resting their stars who will be there in the end. … Perkins needs to be in at the end of games as Rasheed–though highly skilled–is inconsistent enough that 2nd team is the perfect place for him. … The team is NOT full strength yet. Pierce and Garnett are still injured, Daniels is new, Davis not quite ripe, T Allen is developing nicely, …. and Ray and Eddie House? Remember, this team (especially) works in a system, not a one guy (like lebron, joe johnson, etc) takes on all. When the system is together, healthy, focused, few teams can touch them. They HAVEN’T been here yet. But I think, if Doc keeps minutes down, that they will. Think of the “old men” of 1969 who won 45 or so games all season and won the Finals.

  • legs-diamond

    ps. …and championship teams invariably have some unsung hero rise up; easily any one of Daniels, T. Allen, House, Davis, or Williams could be that player–and so Doc has to give them minutes and let them develop in the system. For the time being, they can add energy, if not perfection.

  • Jim MacIndoe

    Eddie House needs to go. I agree he can not defend anyone and if he can’t hit his threes what good is he? I agree that someone needs to start holding Doc accountable. He is as much to blame as some of the players. Tell me why he leaves Pierce in when the guy is playing horrible and he is clearly hurting. K.G. is not much better. I rather sit them both and take the losses until they are healthy. We are losing anyhow so what difference does it make.

  • johny

    is it to drastic to dump doc and go after byron scott, just a segestion

  • Cptn Bubbles

    I agree with you Jim. Doc uses the starters like crutches or training wheels. Look at how the bench came through against a good team, the Raps & how the bench stepped up on Christmas day. Doc would rather play an injured starter at 50% or less than a bench guy at 100%. Doc is always saying “trust your teammate.” What a joke. It is clear he does not trust the bench. I find it extremely hard to believe that KG & Paul & Ray have such fragile & delicate egos that they would not be able to handle more rest on the bench when they are noticeably injured or having crappy games. If they are that sensitive then they each should have their mommy at every game to hold their hand. If they are that selfish than this is not a team.

  • Tom Asher

    Robb, you’re quite right–we amateur fans were yelling at our TVs late in Wednesday’s game to get Pierce and KG out, and put Baby and Daniels (or even Walker) in. Agreed: the problem was Doc. However, the problem runs deeper than one game, or even the last several. He’s consistently a poor judge of his aging players limits, which is why they’re breaking down. Just think of all the times he swore to limit Ray Allen’s minutes but then didn’t, leaving him worn out to miss legless three pointers in the final quarter.

    If you burn out your best players, refuse to bring along your talented younger ones (two sides of a bad coin), and run an offense so unimaginative, except for after time-outs, that it requires watchmaker precision to succeed, then…

    Well, you’re a poor coach for a team requiring judgment on personnel as well as on-court tactics. Furthermore, Doc’s ability to motivate his younger players suspect too. Consider Perk’s inability to keep his game up when things get thick, or Rondo, the Cs most reliable energy-source: he’s playing more-and-more flat and unfocused, and he’s the only reliable motor to ramp up this aging team’s energy level.

    It’s Ainge’s team, and the man is smart, savvy and experienced. Time for him to take over, or if his heart’s not up to the pressure, hire a good coach who knows his players weakness and limits, as well as their strengths and upsides.

    A final thought: Doc’s pre- and post-game analyses of what’s wrong has the dull feel of a man who doesn’t quite know why his car keeps stalling and repeats platitudes about running the system, seemingly unaware that the system, especially player-time management, has problems.

  • Dunn

    Ray Ray has been getting hammered for being old…the killer thing is that he looks way younger to me than Paul or KG. Paul and KG can’t stay healthy, and Paul’s agility is flat out gone. One more time…GONE. It left last year. You want to talk trades…I wouldn’t be talking about trading Ray…at least he plays everyday, and doesn’t look worthless out there…most nights anyway. The Celtics best line-ups in my opinion substitute either Tony Allen or Marquis for Paul…

  • Cptn Bubbles

    Some really good points Tom. Doc wants them to play extremely active & tough defense. We all love the sound of that, BUT that takes a HUGE amount of energy, AND then Doc is trying to force these older guys to play even more minutes of this high intensity basketball AND if they get hurt they still have to play high minutes if they get thrown back out there. It’s a recipe for disaster.

    Either:

    A)You have a bench to play hard defense to give the starters solid rest

    B)You don’t have a bench or trust your bench so Danny needs to be making some massive trades to get a bench which can allow the starters to rest.

    What is tough for us all to swallow is how all this is happening again & again. Once is chance. Twice a trend. Three times and we got a problem. This has happened more than 3 times, and there is no effort being made to try something different (lineups, substitutions, etc.). We see guys playing well sitting on the bench. We see guys playing terrible playing high minutes & finishing the games on fumes. It just makes no sense whatsoever. And the post game interviews could all be broken down to the mumbo jumbo of ‘we did not execute. it is what it is. we will stay the course’ which sounds like something captain Ahab would say.

  • Trav

    nope, wasnt the worst half of his career, talk about knee jerk reactions…,he’s been playing like this for a while now…i dont know what happened to him

  • Jay P

    I made that exact comment about Doc in the “celtics get stung” article. Doc is not a good coach, I put Wednesday’s loss squarely on his shoulders. He has shown once again that he has no coaching ability whatsoever, and has gotten to where he is solely on riding the back of his very talented starting line up.

    2008 was basically the equivalent of the “easy” button for Doc. Do nothing, play his starters lots of minutes, rely on veteran guys to know what to do, and draw up a few plays on the board (the one thing that he is very good at.) But this isn’t 2008 anymore, he can’t just throw his starters out there and expect to win, he needs to use his depth, play to the hot hand, create favorable match ups in substitutions. Basically, he needs to learn how to coach.

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