It is only fitting that on the same night Paul Pierce scores 36 for the Celtics Kobe Bryant drops 38 for the Lakers. Since 2000 there has been plenty of analysis, stats and awards that show Kobe as the best swing man in the league: 81 point game, regular season MVP, 9 time NBA All Defense First team, two time finals MVP and 5 NBA Championships.
Pierce has been in Kobe’s shadow for over a decade now. Pierce is a perennial All-Star with an NBA championship and a finals MVP under his belt. Yet, unlike Kobe, he hasn’t been nominated to a single All-Defensive team despite having the same career 1.5 steals per game, half a block a game and besting him 5.1 to 4.1 on defensive rebounds per game. Pierce doesn’t score like Kobe and is four empty fingers behind him in championship rings, but aside froom Kobe, Pierce can score and play defense better than any other swing man in the league over that time.
Vince Carter used to throw down a whole lot of pretty dunks for shoe deals and his cousin Tracy McGrady put up 62 points in a game en route to scoring titles. In baseball everyone wants the 5 tool athlete that can run, catch, throw, hit for power and average. In basketball scoring titles and dunks are flashy for highlight reels but Pierce is the type of player with all the tools that are needed in the playoffs and he showed it in game two against the Hawks. In the fourth quarter he started the scoring by driving to the basket on T-Mac for a layup. He followed with another layup, a fast break dunk, a big three, a mid-range jumper off the dribble and two free throws to ice the lead. He pulled in four fourth quarter rebounds on his way to a game high 14 and playing without Rondo, Pierce finished second to Garnett with four assists to Garnett’s five.
Watch out for the grit that this Celtics team puts down. The Heat might be cruising but Pierce, Garnett and the rising Avery Bradley (three steals and three blocks in game two) matchup up well defensively with Lebron, Bosh and Wade. There are a lot of contracts up after these playoffs and you never know what Danny Ainge is going to put together. This Celtics team has played 73 playoff games since assembling the ‘big 3’ in 2007 and they don’t look contented with just one ring in that time. The young kids are on notice; Kobe is coming for the Western Conference Title and Paul Pierce is still The Truth.