BOSTON (CBS) — Celtics captain Paul Pierce has starred in a commercial this spring, one in which he sits in the rafters at the TD Garden among all the Celtics championship banners. The commercial’s very well done, and if you’re a Celtics fan, it’d be hard to watch it without getting giddy about the prospect of the Celtics adding to that already-impressive collection this season. It’s inspiring — but if Pierce puts up another couple of performances like he had in Game 1, that commercial is as close as he’ll ever come to raising another banner to the rafters.
Among the many disturbing sights to see from the Celtics was Pierce’s disappointing showing, which at the end of the night looked like this: 12 points on 5-of-18 shooting, two rebounds (zero offensive), three assists and zero free throws attempted in 40 minutes on the floor.
Now, Pierce was hardly the only problem for the Celtics. Ray Allen was 1-for-7, Rajon Rondo missed 12 shots and also didn’t get to the free-throw line, the refs were somewhere between atrocious and abominable, the team collectively missed 10 free throws and the C’s got almost zero contribution from the bench. It was an all-around ugly performance, and no one person is to blame for the 93-79 loss.
But this is Paul Pierce. He is the captain. In his 14 NBA seasons with Boston, there’s not much he hasn’t done. He’s risen to the biggest of moments and has proven himself to be a clutch performer, yet with his team having a chance to make an opening statement against the heavily favored Heat, he was nowhere to be found. By the second half, his offensive strategy became “fly at the rim, heave the ball toward the glass and hope to get fouled.” It didn’t work.
With Kevin Garnett maintaining his nearly unbelievable level of play, he and the Celtics desperately needed one teammate to step up and reach that level. It couldn’t be Ray Allen, not with his injury. And it couldn’t have been Brandon Bass, who may have used up all of his magic dust during his 27-point outburst last week against the Sixers.
Pierce could have and should have been that guy; instead, he was just another guy.
And don’t blame the knee issues that sprung up during the Celtics’ first-round series against the Hawks. His knee was not too much of a hindrance in the final five games against Philadelphia, when he averaged a solid 20.6 points and 8.2 rebounds in more than 39 minutes per night. There’s no doubt that he’s playing through pain, but that’s no excuse, given his performances over the past week and a half.
Admittedly, even if Pierce had a great night on Monday, there’s a good chance the Heat would have walked away with a win. For the Celtics to have a chance in this round, they’ll need a whole lot more than a better showing from Pierce. But it may have to start with him.
Of course, it’s not an easy task, keeping up with the bigger, younger and faster LeBron James on the defensive end while still contributing offensively. And it’s not easy to work through the tenacious defense of Shane Battier. But there is reason to believe Pierce should be better than he was in Game 1.
He’s done it before. He is “The Truth.” But the truth is, his performance in Game 1 wasn’t nearly good enough to have anyone in Boston worrying about making room for another banner in the Garden rafters. Not even close.