Doc: We're asking too much from Pierce
In a series that has so far been defined by the Celtics' inability to score in the second half of games, Pierce has been asked not only to get his own points, but to initiate offense for his teammates as well as work on the defensive end against Carmelo Anthony and even the smaller and faster Raymond Felton. It's too much, according to Rivers, and it needs to change as the series shifts to Boston.
"We can be more creative, I have to be," Rivers said before practice on Thursday. "Because that’s just asking Paul to do too much. We're asking him to guard Carmelo at times, asking him to bring the ball up the floor at times, we’re asking him to be our post-passer, it’s -- listen, he’s Paul Pierce. He’s not Christopher Reeves."
In the opening two games in New York, Pierce averaged 19.5 points 5.5 rebounds and 6.5 points over 38.5 minutes, but shot just 41.2 percent from the field and a very un-Pierce-like 16.7 percent from 3-point nation. Rivers has worried that fatigue has played a role in Pierce's poor shooting percentages, particularly in the second half of games when Boston's offense has suffered the most. When he hasn't been defending Anthony, he's had to deal with the Felton matchup at times.
The Celtics knew there would be a trade-off if the Knicks went with a smaller lineup and Felton got the assignment on Pierce, but they haven't been able to exploit it as well as they would like to. Not only has Pierce been unable to take advantage of Felton as a smaller defender, but Felton has made him work extra hard on the defensive end as well.
"I don’t like (Pierce chasing Felton on defense), honestly, that’s hurt us a little bit, and we haven’t taken advantage of that on the other end because we don’t have the ball-handling to take advantage of it," Rivers said. "We’re getting it to him -- we’re getting the ball to guys, but it’s late and it’s off-target. Which throws them off, and so you’re really not getting it to them. That’s not being the way we’ve wanted it so far."
But Pierce having to worry about Felton at times, in addition to Anthony, hasn't stopped the Celtics from leaning on him for an offensive spark in the second half. The Celtics, as a team, averaged an appalling 24 points in the second half of their opening two games, and as the offense broke down, the focus shifted to Pierce to try to rectify the situation.
But Pierce shot a combined 6-of-17 from the field in the two second halves, and the team's production, or lack thereof, is proof that he alone cannot carry such a heavy burden.
Pierce knows the Celtics have a better chance if they can do a better job of taking advantage of his matchup with Felton.
"We've got to do a better job of taking advantage of it on the other end," Pierce said of Felton guarding him. "We have the advantage, we feel like, on that end with the smaller guys, but, at the same time, the Knicks are doing a good job of sending two or three guys and trapping, clogging up the lane, and it's working for them right now."
As for being asked to do too much in the first two games, Pierce, always the competitor, downplayed that idea on Thursday, suggesting he'll continue to try to do whatever the Celtics ask of him.
"I mean, that all comes with the job," Pierce said of being asked to do so much. "I wouldn't be asked of it if I wasn't capable. ... You understand that winning isn't easy. And I understand that part, so I expect hard."
But Rivers knows the Celtics can't lean on Pierce to bail them out of a team-wide issue.
"We're not going to put all that pressure on Paul," Rivers said. "If we’re asking Paul to score, to start the offense, and pass the ball, we’re going to struggle scoring. I mean one of our guys, he even gave me a list of guys who should throw the post pass and it was two guys, and I laughed and said, ‘Well, one of them is a post guy.’ I said, 'That narrows our choices a little bit.' "
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