The Truth surfaces when it matters most
|03.04.12 at 9:44 pm ET|
Prior to the 2008 playoffs, ESPN interviewed The Big Three. The Celtics had a great regular season and the title aspirations which were frequently talked about once Danny Ainge dealt for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett were coming to fruition. The interview featured a wide-range of questions, but one stood out. If the game was on the line, who would take the last shot? The three were asked to answer simultaneously on the count of three. Paul Pierce and Garnett both said Allen, and Allen answered “The open man.”
Although Allen and Garnett have both hit their fair share of significant shots in the waning moments of games, it’s safe to say — five years later — we have the answer…Pierce.
That’s why on Sunday, with the Celtics trailing 103-100 against the Knicks, it wasn’t shocking to see the captain breathe life into his team, hitting a 3-point shot in the face of Iman Shumpert with just over four seconds left in regulation.
“The play was for Ray,” Pierce explained. “We set a double screen for Ray to come off two screens. If he wasn’t open on the first, we’d set another for him. The play really kind of gotten broken up, because [Rajon] Rondo wanted to go baseline and flare me to the baseline, but once I saw Kevin with the ball, I just wanted to come off of it. I came off wide open and got a wide open look.”
Pierce’s clutch shot sent the game into overtime after Carmelo Anthony misfired along the baseline as time expired. The Celtics seized the momentum and went on to win, 115-111.
The refreshing aspect of the win is that Boston has typically found itself on the other side of the equation in close games this season. On opening day in Madison Square Garden, the Knicks prevailed, 106-104, as Garnett missed a close range jumper which would have tied the game. Later in the season against the Mavericks, Pierce hit a dramatic 3-pointer to tie the game, but Dirk Nowitzki answered with a diving lay-in to secure a victory for Dallas. Against the Cavaliers it was rookie Kyrie Irving who converted a lay-up off a pick and roll to propel Cleveland to a dramatic come-from-behind win in Boston. Finally, about a month ago, it was Pierce who botched an opportunity to feed Allen for a potential game-winning shot in an overtime loss against the Lakers.
On Sunday it appeared yet again that the Celtics would flounder down the stretch after conceding a fourth quarter lead. Pierce and Anthony traded a series of baskets in the final minutes. The Knicks had the upper hand, 101-100, with just over 30 seconds left in regulation. Coming out of a timeout, Pierce slipped while driving to the basket, which forced Garnett to call a timeout to maintain possession. Undeterred, Doc Rivers called Pierce’s number once again, but Pierce couldn’t deliver. He missed an off-balance jumper, and the Celtics three-game winning streak seemed as if it was about to end.
“I got to a spot that I like to get the shot off from,” Pierce said. “Maybe I rushed it a little bit, but it felt good coming out of my hand. Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don’t. I had another opportunity and another crack at it. And you know the old saying: If at first you don’t succeed, try again.”
Luckily for the Celtics, Pierce would get to try one more time. After Steve Novak buried two free throws, Rondo directed traffic just beyond half court to try to get one last good look at a 3-point shot. The Celtics had no more time outs left and had to operate on the fly. After a series of hand-offs, it seemed like a quality opportunity wasn’t going to open up. Pierce came up to help out by making himself available for the straightway 3-pointer. The rest, as they say, is history.
“I don’t know if that’s execution,” Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni told reporters after the game. “That’s having a horseshoe up your rear. That’s what Paul Pierce does.”
Paul Pierce, rainmaker? After an illustrious career that moniker probably doesn’t apply. Odd execution? Sure. But, in sports, all that matters is the Celtics earned a much-needed win to sustain their post All-Star break winning streak. That’s The Truth.