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Max Power
11-19-2003, 02:21 PM
By Mark Murphy
Wednesday, November 19, 2003

One look at Paul Pierce [news]'s numbers over the last five games reveals a player in statistical decline.

Capped by his 17-point, 6-for-20 performance during Monday night's loss in New York, the Celtics captain has averaged 17.2 points on 30-of-88 (.340) shooting over the last five games.

Compare that to his 23.6 average on 44-of-106 (.415) shooting over the first five games, when he scored at least 20 points in each game. Not only has Pierce failed to break the 20-point barrier over his last five games, he's also taken an average of almost four fewer shots per game.

This across-the-board statistical drop should make it very clear.

Without Antoine Walker [news] to siphon off some of the pressure, the opposition has become increasingly successful at limiting Pierce's ability to score - especially when it comes to driving into the paint and drawing fouls.

But lest you think this is a situation solely of Pierce's doing, consider the way that Celtics coach Jim O'Brien views the problem.

It's not necessarily Pierce's responsibility to pull himself out of this early rut.

``Everybody has to understand how to make Paul better,'' O'Brien said after yesterday's practice. ``Far too often you hear about how it's the superstar who has to make the others better.''

In the wake of Monday's withering loss, when the Celtics lost their grip on a 17-point lead, these answers for how to get the most out of Pierce are not easily apparent.

Especially when the Celtics don't defend. In O'Brien's mind, you can't have one without the other.

``I'd like to see us understand offensive flow,'' O'Brien said. ``I make no bones about the fact that how our defense goes, so goes our offense.

``I think Paul can average 25 points per game, but just as important for us is how he defends, and how he rebounds.''

Which is to say that right now, with all of the responsibilities now piled on Pierce's plate, there's not much room for error.

Especially when Pierce tries to make up for the overload by trying to do too much.

``Certainly he wants the ball when the game is on the line, and I want that, too,'' O'Brien said. ``He has to score at key times for us to win. And when we get into a halfcourt game, it's not in our best interests.''

Especially now, with opponents double-teaming Pierce farther out on the perimeter, thus cutting off his chances to drive into the paint.

At least his teammates understand the importance of somehow forcing the double and triple coverage off of Pierce.

``He's doing a good job, but other teams are scouting him and figuring out ways to get the ball out of his hands,'' said forward Eric Williams. ``We have to try and set him up better.

``That's going to take some time,'' he said. ``I've always said it will take 20 or 25 games to know what you have as a team.''

Vin Baker, who has indeed done his part offensively to draw more attention, believes the solution will simply require time.

``The biggest thing for us and Paul is to just go out and play,'' said Baker. ``We don't want to put pressure on him, though. He doesn't need more pressure than he already has.''

Blonde Bomber
11-19-2003, 03:25 PM
What? Raef isn't drawing away some of those double teams?

dirno2000
11-19-2003, 03:58 PM
It's hard to draw double teams from the bench.

Mavs Rule
11-19-2003, 07:29 PM
And it even harder to draw double teams from the Injured List. i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif

sike
11-20-2003, 02:52 PM
really what was his mom thinking.....I mean come on, "Raef"?!!!i/expressions/face-icon-small-happy.gif

kingrex
11-20-2003, 03:49 PM
It seems even clearer that the Celtics trade with the Mavs has less to do with getting Raef or Jiri and more to do with Ainge getting rid of Walker. Now they're having to experience the consequences of that decision.

sike
11-20-2003, 03:52 PM
Originally posted by: kingrex
It seems even clearer that the Celtics trade with the Mavs has less to do with getting Raef or Jiri and more to do with Ainge getting rid of Walker. Now they're having to experience the consequences of that decision.

I agree King, but "Raef"?!!!i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif