The Celtics are in a bit of a bind heading into Game 6 this evening, especially on the offensive end. They’ve struggled to break 90 points in regulation in four of the first five games this series against a tough Atlanta defense that has now been upgraded with Al Horford back in the mix.
Paul Pierce (sprained MCL) and Avery Bradley (sore rotator cuff), two of the team’s top scorers this postseason are beat up. These guys have been carrying the scoring slack in place of a few guys this postseason, but it’s tough to expect too much out of either of them tonight given their ailments.
One guy they have been carrying the load for on the offensive end is Mickael Pietrus. The frenchman is a one-trick pony…literally. The problem is that one-trick hasn’t been working that well this series: his 3-point shot.
Don’t believe me? Let’s dissect the numbers. What if I told you Air France had taken just one two-point shot this entire series? Yes, it was the impressive reverse layup at the end of the third quarter of Game 5, so Mickael is shooting 100 percent from inside the arc. From downtown? A whole different story.
Remember how much we all use to complain about Rasheed Wallace’s shooting from downtown? Well, Mickael shoots it nearly just as much and for the past month, he’s been worse than Rasheed ever was. In this series, Pietrus has hit just 2-of-13 3-balls, clocking a horrendous 15.4 percentage from beyond the arc, while taking just over 2.5 attempts from deep per game.
Now you can chalk this up to a slump, but if you look at Pietrus over the past month or so the numbers don’t get much better. In fact, since returning from a knee injury on April 11th, Pietrus is shooting just 30.4 percent from the field (17-of-56) and a dismal 20 percent (8-of-40) from downtown. That stretch goes beyond a slump my friends. Those numbers are reason for concern.
Now there’s no doubt injuries are likely playing into Mickael’s struggles. He’s been battling the knee issue all season (in part because the C’s for some reason played him 3 consecutive nights in April, a situation I will never understand). He’s also dealt with a hamstring injury that kept him out of the game for the second half of Game 4. Injuries or not though, the C’s can’t have someone on the floor taking as many shots from downtown as he is right now while hitting just 20 percent of them.
Pietrus won’t be sent to the bench for these ugly numbers. The team needs him for his defense, which has been a huge boon throughout this series on Joe Johnson. Doc will keep him out there. With that said, he needs to play better on the offensive end. He needs to shoot better.
This team needs him and his offense in a bad way right now with Pierce and Bradley beat-up. Keyon Dooling and Marquis Daniels have also played strong minutes this series on the offensive end, but still cede most of their minutes to Pietrus once Allen returned to the lineup. I never thought I would advocate playing either of these guys more than Pietrus, but both are good defenders and well, we’re talking about a guy that has been a complete non-factor offensively for a month. A switch won’t be made now, but if something doesn’t change soon, it has to be considered.
That month-long slump needs to come to an end sooner rather than later, or else it might be the C’s season that comes to an end sooner than anyone had anticipated. It starts with Game 6 tonight.