• Paul Pierce lives. The Truth’s buzzer-beater last night is his first-ever walk-off post-season shot and only his second playoff game-winner—with game-winner defined (via 82games.com) as any shot taken with fewer than 24 seconds left on the game clock and the scored tied or with the shooter’s team trailing by one or two points. The other was Pierce’s game-winner against the Bulls in Game 5 last season, which he hit with 3.4 to go.
Pierce was reflective afterward, according to ESPNBoston’s Chris Forsberg:
“This has been one of my more trying seasons, to tell you the truth. I’ve never been through this much in my career. I had surgery, then my sprained, and then after that I sprained my thumb. It was very trying.
“I’m used to playing through injuries, but at this point of my career, at this age, I don’t heal as quickly as I used to.”
Forsberg also takes us through the thinking on the final play, which looked to me as I watched the game like it was designed for Ray Allen to pop free in the corner. I was wrong:
After Ray Allen missed on the previous possession, Pierce and his coach admitted that the captain pretty much demanded the ball. Rivers drew up a couple of options, particularly if the Heat attempted to foul, but everyone in Boston knew exactly how the final play was going to unfold.
“I was ready for them to come foul and I was going to try to get a shot up, but they didn’t come,” said Pierce. “I just got to my little sweet spot on the right elbow and got a good look at the rim.”
And here’s Ray:
“We put our faith in his hands that last shot,” said Allen. “He came through for us. It’s great to have somebody that can make shots like that at the buzzer.”
And here’s Perk:
“That’s the Truth. He lives for games like this. I expected him to do that tonight. He was attacking and his jumper was falling.”
Good for Paul Pierce. My love for Paul Pierce is not a secret.
Here’s the thing: The isolation 21-foot jumper is a bad end-of-game shot. The fact that Paul Pierce hit it last night does not change that. It was a predictable, low-percentage shot before Paul Pierce’s mid-range shooting percentages dropped off a cliff this season. Before last night’s game-winner, Paul Pierce was 13-of-57 (22.8 percent) on shots that could win or tie a game in the last 10 seconds of regulation and overtime over the last 10 seasons, according to NBA’s Stats and Research Group.
The league average on such shots over the last decade is about 29 percent; they are ludicrously hard shots to make, and Pierce deserves credit for having the Cassells to take them and accept the responsibility if/when they don’t go in.
But the odds are stacked against this shot every time. Doc surely understands this, and hopefully will continue to vary the team’s late-game plays—something he’s done well this season—as the playoffs continue.
• Speaking of the last play, the Herald’s Mark Murphy notes Doc’s decision to insert Michael Finley into the line-up to play the role Eddie House would have played:
In truth, Wade wouldn’t have affected the play anyway. With Michael Finley on the floor to draw attention and with Rondo under the basket as Pierce dribbled away,Doc Rivers had called a play that would have taken the Heat All-Star well away from the ball.
And Doc also confirms the action involving Ray Allen in the right corner was a decoy:
“It was just Paul,” the Celtics coach said. “All of the movement was just false movement to get people occupied.”
• Bob Ryan provides some more choice details about the shot, including that Doc Rivers instructed Pierce not to leave any time on the clock. This drives my Dad (and, to a lesser extent, me) crazy. Dad is always yelling for the C’s to start their last-second play with 5 or 6 seconds left instead of 2 or 3, if only to give the bigs a chance to crash the offensive glass.
But Doc’s instructions were clear, Pierce told Ryan:
“Coach said not to leave time on the clock,’’ Pierce explained. “When I looked up and saw two seconds, I decided to make my move. I got my little sweet spot on the right elbow.’’
• Ryan also reminds us the C’s nearly blew this game by slipping into some well-worn bad habits:
But they would have known how spectacularly self-destructive they had been, committing six turnovers and being hit with a defensive three-second violation in a span of 5:41 after a second-chance Pierce inside-out 3-pointer provided by the ever-exciting Rajon Rondo had given them that nice 9-point lead. They would have wasted an otherwise superb, professional effort with that one horrible stretch of non-thinking, non-executing basketball.
They might not be able to get away with a stretch like that if they advance to the next round.
• Ray Allen tells Ryan the team’s mindset was different last night when things started going bad:
“In the regular season, if something happened the way it did tonight in the fourth quarter, it would have been, ‘Man, you’ve gotta do this, you’ve gotta do that,’ ’’ said Allen. “Now we’re all helping each other.’’
Good news. And Doc also senses things coming together: “I’ve got to tell you,’’ Rivers said. “In the first quarter, I said, ‘I don’t know if we’re going to win or lose, but we’re here.’ ’’
We’re here. The Boston Celtics are here. How long will they stick around?
• The C’s are saying all the right things about finishing the series up on Sunday. Here’s Pierce (via the Globe’s Julian Benbow):
“It’s very important,’’ said Paul Pierce. “If we’re able to get Game 4, it’ll give us some days rest.”
• In case you missed Michael Beasley’s “they’re old” comments about the C’s, here they are, via the ProJo:
“We have to be more athletic, more energetic, bring the fire,” Beasley said. “Make them feel old. They’ve got a lot of veterans on their team and we’ve got a lot of young guys. We just need to run the floor and just try to tire them out.”
Michael: Enjoy the off-season.
• Also via the ProJo: Doc Rivers had this to say about Sheed’s $35,000 fine:
“Rasheed alone is an individual hedge fund by himself.”
• Or how about this quip, via the Herald:
“It’s like the sun coming up lately,” Doc Rivers said yesterday. “You wake up and Rasheed’s fined.”
I dunno…maybe people shouldn’t be laughing this stuff off. Certainly, some fairly high-profile Celtics fans have suggested Doc should have already called out Sheed a bit more harshly and publicly about his play and his technicals. Doc has said Sheed needs to play better, and he did get in a shouting match with Sheed after a technical toward the end of the season, so it’s not as if he’s just let Sheed’s flaws go without comment. But I understand the folks who get annoyed when Doc just laughs off Sheed’s latest outburst/fine/technical.
• Did you notice L’il Ricky Pitino in the building? He was there, the Herald reports, and Paul Pierce still seems to feel affection for him:
Pierce, told that his first NBA coach was in the building, said, “I didn’t know he was here. That’s my boy. I would have gone over and said, ‘What’s up?’ ”
• Sean Grande, WEEI’s radio play-by-play guy, got into a dicey little confrontation with a couple of Heat fans during last night’s game, the Globe reports. Grande and Cedric Maxwell got relegated to a broadcast spot in the lower bowl, and Grande stood throughout the game. It’s unclear from the story why Grande stood—whether he had a bad view of the court.
But two Heat fans behind him were not happy:
Grande stood for the entire game and a female fan sitting above Grande claimed she could not see the action on the east side of the court clearly. The fan complained to security and arena officials to no avail and screamed repeatedly at Grande to sit down.
A companion of the fan then started screaming expletives at Grande and said he hoped he could be heard on air. The female fan followed by yelling to Grande, “Who do you think you are?’’
After Pierce hit his winning shot, Grande sat down and the female fan doused him with a drink. Grande did not respond and remained on the air. Security did not admonish the fan.
I sympathize with the fan up to a point. It sucks to have your view obstructed. On the other hand: Don’t throw a drink at the guy, OK?
• It’s amazing how much perception can change in a few days. I watched the game at a bar in Manhattan with a couple of buddies. It wasn’t a sports bar, so I was the only one paying any real attention to the game. When Pierce hit that shot, a dude at the bar noticed me celebrating, turned to me and yelled, “Man, I gotta tell ya, I think Boston is gonna take down Cleveland. The Cavs just don’t look that good.”
Game 4 tomorrow. Bring out the brooms.