As tempted as I was to just put up Friday night’s box score for this section, that was just a little too easy. Instead, I decided to do some research after watching that masterpiece the Truth put together in Madison Square Garden. Was that the best performance of his postseason career, (numbers wise) I wondered as number 34 buried jumper after jumper?
Not quite, but it’s closer than you think. While the Game 7 2008 shootout with LeBron may linger the freshest in people’s mind, let’s turn the clock back a bit further. Back to the good old days, when five-game series reigned supreme in the first round. The year was 2002. The Celtics hadn’t won a playoff series in more than a decade, but were led by the two-headed monster of Pierce and Antoine Walker against the defending Eastern Conference champions Philadelphia 76ers.
A back and forth shootout turned into a flat out rout by the midway point of the 4th quarter as the Sixers just had no chance against the former Kansas star. 46 points. 8-of-10 shooting from downtown! 16-of-25 overall. Just flat out filthy stuff by Pierce as the C’s cruised 120-87 and started their run to the Eastern Conference Finals.
And now we get to the dirty little secret of the Celtics Championship chances this year. With Friday night’s effort, Pierce put together what was easily the second best performance of his postseason career…..in a mere 33 minutes of action. The guy is healthy, motivated, and arguably playing better in all aspects of the game than any other time in his NBA career.
Last year, the Celtics made a historic run, but Pierce still wasn’t completely healthy in the playoffs. He had been battling a variety of disclosed and undisclosed (stress fracture in foot) injuries all year. This year? All those dunks? That’s a sign of a healthy cat, who is shooting and rebounding just about as well as ever. And that’s why I refuse to count this team out as one of the top contenders out there for another NBA Title. Let everyone else sleep on this team right now. The Celtics have more than their fair share of problems right now, but they also have Pierce.
For now though, enjoy this montage of highlights from Game 5 as a nice warmup to this afternoon’s showdown. Also ten CelticsHub points if you can name the color analyst that’s not John Thompson in the video for TNT that night.