Sometimes I wonder why I spend my days consuming so many articles about the Boston Celtics. Over the last two days, I got my answer: Because if I don't, I'll miss the few nuggets of interest worth the effort.
Tucked away in two articles this week were a couple of throw-away lines that merit some further reflection.
First was the observation by a Celtics beat writer that the Paul Pierce we see in the regular season, even this regular season, bears only a faint resemblance to the Paul Pierce we saw in the playoffs in 2002.
Second was the observation of former Celtics coach Jim O’Brien, who echoed the same sentiments, but singled out one game in particular, a round 1 game against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Hmmm, I thought to myself. That sentence certainly didn’t end the way I thought it would. I was thinking to myself, ok, Jim, time to insert an obligatory reference to the second-half comeback against New Jersey in the ECFs, a comeback that was spearheaded by Pierce.
But Philadelphia? Round 1?
There were only three things I remember about that series:
No one could guard Kenny Anderson.
Antoine Walker somehow shot 50% from the field.
And the Celtics won game 5 in a blow-out, raining down a cascade of threes in the fourth quarter, with even Kedrick Brown getting in on the action.
As I review the box score, however, there really is only one performance that stands out.
Paul Pierce scored 46 points on 16-25 shooting, including 8-10 from three. He grabbed four rebounds, dished six assists, and tallied one block and one steal. Most impressively, despite handling the ball for most of the 44 minutes he was on the court, Paul Pierce only committed one turnover.
If that Paul Pierce returns to the Gah-den, the Celtics will make fast work of any team they play, and you have to like the odds now that his overall game has vastly improved, especially his passing skills and ability to get to the line with methodical regularity.
The biggest difference, of course, is that Pierce now has an ample stable of weapons at his disposal. So any team tempted to throw a double or triple at Pierce most assuredly will pay the price.
Just when you thought there wasn’t another reason to get excited about the playoffs, the thought of Paul Pierce elevating his game comes to the fore.