Pierce Serves Memo with 40-Point Explosion
BOSTON – The memo has been served: Paul Pierce still has it.
Whatever ‘it’ is, it was missing from Pierce’s game over the first two months of this season. Account for circumstances like the talent surrounding Pierce and you could make the argument that the first 24 games of 2012-13 may be the worst 24-game stretch of his illustrious career.
Nearly two full months of the season were in the books prior to Wednesday night’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Pierce entered the contest shooting just 41.9 percent from the field. He had made just 36.9 percent of his 3s. He was shooting just 80.9 percent from the free-throw line.
Pierce’s overall numbers have been drastically higher than that over the past five seasons. In fact, you’d have to turn the clock back to the early 2000s, when Pierce was hoisting up nearly 20 shots a night, to find numbers similar to this season’s.
As bad as those numbers were, they were forgotten Wednesday night. Pierce looked like his old self again. And then some.
“There was nothing that we could do with him tonight,” Cavaliers head coach Byron Scott said. “Sometimes a guy like that, a future Hall of Famer, sometimes they get it going and there’s really nothing much you can do, and Paul got it going. He hit some shots tonight that I hadn’t seen him hit, or play that way, in a while.”
Scott was right on target. So was Pierce.
Boston’s captain scored a season-high 40 points on Wednesday night, which fell just 10 points shy of his career high. Pierce dropped 43 on the Knicks at MSG last April, but Boston’s previous two 40-point performances at TD Garden came from Pierce as well, and both of those contests were played against the Cavaliers.
The Cavaliers dealt with some serious scoring from Pierce on those nights, but they weren’t subjected to the type of shooting performance Pierce that put on Wednesday night.
“It’s hard to really explain it,” Pierce said as he attempted to explain the zone he was in. “You feel good. You feel like everything you do, everything you shoot, is going to go in.”
Pierce shot a ridiculous 13-of-16 from the field, made six of his seven attempts from behind the 3-point arc, and made all eight of his free throws. Yup, you read that correctly: an 81.3 percent clip from the field, an 85.7 percent clip from long range, and literal perfection from the stripe.
Talk about insane numbers.
These shots that rolled off of Pierce’s fingers were perfect. They were pure. They splashed through the nets as if the basketball gods were dropping them from directly above the hoop.
Scott alluded to the fact that he hadn’t seen this type of play from Pierce “in a while.” To be honest, neither had anyone else. But Pierce, the confident scorer who half-jokingly calls himself the greatest shooter of all time, felt the momentum building on his shot over the past week.
“I feel like the last few games I’ve been shooting the ball a lot better, three or four games now,” Pierce stated. “So I feel like I’m really coming along where I’m starting to get into a good groove offensively, the way my shot’s going, picking my spots. So even before tonight I felt good.”
He could have fooled his coach, because Doc Rivers had no inclinations that this type of performance was on the horizon.
“Paul is the toughest guy to read,” Rivers said after Boston’s 103-91 victory over the Cavs. “He never takes the same shot – he doesn’t even have the same release point. No kid should watch that. I mean, it’s amazing how he does it.”
And it’s amazing how he caught everyone off guard. The rest of the NBA may have believed that Pierce had lost it, but he served a memo Wednesday night that is sure to remind everyone of his greatness.