3.29.2008

The Truth and the Ticket: Co-MVPs?


Let’s start with the obvious:

This is Paul Pierce’s best year, bar none. Pierce has completely overhauled his game to fit the team that Doc and Danny have put around him.

Gone are the days where his offense consists of head-down drives through multiple defenders.

Gone are the days where he hoists up contested treys despite teammates standing alone nearby.

He’s playing defense.

He’s picking his spots to score within the flow of the offense.

He’s getting others more involved in the offense, with Leon Powe, Glen Davis, and Kendrick Perkins being the primary beneficiaries of his ball-sharing proclivities.

Let's not forget, either, that he’s still finding time to take over big games, and score by the bushelfull down the stretch, as everyone witnessed at home against Phoenix, at home against San Antonio, and on the road against the Lakers.

Oh, and, by the way, he's the only Boston Celtic, starter or otherwise, to play in every game this season.

The Boston Celtics, meanwhile, have the best record in the NBA, and will probably break the single-season record for win-differential improvement.

Until very recently, however, MVP discussions have failed to include even a mention of Celtics number 34. The biggest reason for this oversight is that Pierce was here last year, the year before, and the year before that, when the Celtics weren’t very good.

So how can he be the reason for the turnaround when, some observers have hinted, he was part of the problem?

One answer might be to look at who the leading scorer has been in the Celtics most important games this year, the games against Detroit, Los Angeles, San Antonio, Dallas, Phoenix, New Orleans, and Houston. KG and the Truth have each led the team in scoring 7 times in 15 games against those opponents (Big Baby led the team the other game).

So at the very least Pierce has shared primary scoring responsibilities with the Ticket in big games. Equally important, the Celtics are 13-2 in those games.

Below I set forth Pierce's numbers in those 15 games (click on image to enlarge). His averages in those games are pretty close to his season averages across the board. So while he's definitely played an integral role in the Celtics success, it would be hard to argue that his elevated play was the deciding factor in more than a handful of outcomes.


Yet, as with KG, numbers don't tell the entire story.

Look at the second game against Detroit. Glen Davis was the leading scorer, and, in the eyes of most observers, the star of the game.

But focusing on Davis as the star of the game forgets the person responsible for driving to the hole, drawing double and triple teams, and then finding the open Baby for a layup. Pierce was credited with seven dimes in the game, but on more than a few occasions, Pierce put Baby in a position to score after a dribble or two, even though for statistical purposes, no assist would have been credited.

The Boston Celtics have gone to war with Paul Pierce on their side for a decade now. This makes it difficult to slight him in any way.

At the same time, Pierce himself admits that KG has changed the entire culture in Beantown.

Upon his arrival, Garnett made developing chemistry the first priority and then made a stifling, lock-down defense the team brand. He is the embodiment of selfless teamwork on offense. He creates the mood, sets the tempo, and establishes the focus before the opening tip. During the game, he scores, he intimidates, he deflects, and he rejects. He is the closest thing we've had to Bill Russell on defense since #6 retired, and yet he drains his jumper at a rate approximating Larry Bird in his hey day.

If the writers decide that Pierce and KG should share the MVP, I'd be down with that.

Otherwise, I've got KG.

Sorry Paul.

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