Celtics-Cavs: In Praise of Paul Pierce

1190922388The papers today are full of stories about how great Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett played (not to mention Big Baby), but somewhere Paul Pierce must get his due. Yes, LeBron James scored 35 points last night, but for the first time in the series, Pierce was the aggressor when he was on offense. He carried the Celtics in the first quarter and a half when absolutely nothing else was working, and he finished the game off with free throws.

He also spent almost the entire night on LeBron, who dusted James Posey a couple of times early. Forget the 35, LeBron looked like he was going to go for 50 last night. So, yes it is possible to play good, not great, defense on a night like that.

So, can the Celtics win one away from Gino? We’ll find out tomorrow. But first, three more things from last night.

1. If you’re going to kill Doc Rivers for inconsistent rotations and strange line-ups then you have to give him credit for the way he ran the game last night. Rondo, who was absolutely brilliant, did not leave the floor in the second half. Doc had a quick hook with Sam Cassell, Posey, and especially Leon Powe who has to be in some kind of doghouse right now. Doc rode Pierce, Garnett, Rondo, and Ray Allen hard last night, which reinforced the notion that they absolutely could not have gone to Cleveland down, 3-2. One wonders how many times he can do that with this team.

2 . For as long as he plays basketball, Garnett will get criticized for not scoring more in the fourth quarter. Here’s the problem with that: He just isn’t built that way, either mentally or physically. Mentally, I’m quite sure, Garnett has never once in his life thought about conserving energy to turn it on late in the game. Physically, he often gives up 20-30 pounds in the low post, which makes it particularly difficult to hold and maintain his position. That’s just the way it is.

Last night, Garnett was awesome in the fourth quarter, and throughout the game really, but did he plant his ass on the low block and demand the ball? No. He is the player that he is, and asking him to be something different at this stage of his career seems rather foolish.

3. A note about Bill Simmons’ jilted fan-boy hit-piece yesterday. It’s fair to go after Doc for his rotations. It’s fair to question if Allen has anything left in his body. It’s fair to assault Garnett for not being more aggressive in the fourth quarter of Game 4. And it’s fair to remind everyone that Garnett, Pierce, and Allen have never won before.

But when you haphazardly question people’s commitment to their jobs (Tom Thibodeau), and suggest that others are self-serving phonies (Garnett), then you have to be accountable for those words. Otherwise, you’re simply pulling a Mariotti.