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Irish Coffee: Marquis Daniels to the Celtics’ rescue?

05.30.12 at 11:24 am ET
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The Celtics ran into this same question last season, and surely will have to answer it next year and the year after that: Who gives Paul Pierce a break defending LeBron James?

James played 44 minutes in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, and Pierce was on the floor for 40 of them. While chasing the NBA MVP around as he took 30 percent of Miami’s 72 field goal attempts and scored 32 of the Heat’s 93 points, the Celtics captain had little left in the tank on the offensive end.

Pierce finished with 12 points on 5-of-18 field goals and failed to get to the free throw line, where he’s made his bones on a bum knee during this playoff run. It was only the third time in his career he didn’t attempt a foul shot in a playoff game, and two of those have come since he sprained the MCL in his left knee.

Jeff Green was supposed to be the guy who could spare Pierce for even a handful of minutes, and he actually did a fairly good job against James in the 2011 playoffs, but that hope ended in heart surgery and a lost season. Then, Mickael Pietrus showed potential as that guy, but he’s had to assume the backup duties to Ray Allen on Dwyane Wade in Avery Bradley‘s absence, and that problem is only becoming more complicated.

That leaves Celtics coach Doc Rivers with Sasha Pavlovic and Marquis Daniels as his last two options.

Can Celtics bench swingmen Marquis Daniels (4) or Sasha Pavlovic help beat the Heat? (AP)

Pavlovic shared the court with his former Cavaliers teammate for all of 17 minutes during the regular season, and James generated 29.6 points on 63 percent shooting per 36 minutes in that span. Not exactly a plug in the LBJ dam.

The numbers for Daniels are a little more interesting. Remember, he’s the guy who gave the Celtics 15 effective minutes (game-high plus-11) against Joe Johnson in the 87-80 comeback victory against the Hawks in Game 2 of that series.

During the regular season, James averaged 23.1 points (40 FG%) per 36 in 14 minutes with Daniels on the floor and 27.9 points (56 FG%) per 36 in 98 minutes with Daniels on the bench. Over the past two seasons, in 37 shared minutes, James attempted half as many field goal attempts in the paint per 36 minutes with Daniels on the court. A small sample size, for sure.

But isn’t it worth exploring, even for a few minutes, especially if Pierce continues to struggle on both ends of the floor? At the very least, Daniels/Pavlovic gives the Celtics 12 fouls against James/Wade. “They’ve got to hit the deck, too,” right?

“I mean, I don’t really prepare for something I already think that’s going to happen every game,” James told the South Florida Sun Sentinel in response to Rajon Rondo‘s “hit the deck” comments, “so I don’t have to prepare for it.”

The problem? James and Wade didn’t hit the deck in Game 1. All but five of their 21 made field goals in the series opener came in the paint against the Celtics, including 13 buckets within three feet of the basket.

Another possible solution for Rivers could be going small against the Heat. Miami’s most commonly used lineup in Chris Bosh‘s absence is James, Wade, Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier and Joel Anthony. Why not match up respectively with something like Pietrus, Allen/Daniels/Keyon Dooling, Rondo, Pierce and Kevin Garnett?

That lineup still gives the C’s overwhelming matchups at point guard (Rondo vs. Chalmers) and center (Garnett vs. Anthony), puts their best wing defender (Pietrus) on James, allows Pierce to guard Battier — an easier assignment on the perimeter, akin to Atlanta’s Marvin Williams — and throws the kitchen sink at Wade.

None of these options might make a lick of difference in Game 2, but obviously something has to change. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and that’s exactly what Daniels and Pavlovic are.

(Have a question, concern or conception for the next Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Boston Celtics, LeBron James, Marquis Daniels
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