When the Celtics really need a bucket, especially in crunch time, what do they do?
It's just about automatic: They'll isolate Paul Pierce, who is a near lock to fire up that mid-range jumper that he nails relentlessly, even with a hand in his face.
Or, used to hit relentlessly.
Brian Robb at CelticsHub has been digging through the data, and noticed that Pierce's mid-range shooting numbers have fallen off a cliff this season. Pierce has had one injury after another, and has played through most of them. And he's not getting younger. It's no mystery why this might be happening. But it's happening. From inside the arc, Pierce's field goal percentages (in the 40s for the last few years) are now in the mid-30s, according to HoopData.
This is like the Derek Fisher debate in Los Angeles. If a player has done something so well for so long, and then stops doing it well for a few months ... how does a coach know when to pull the plug? It's not at all hard to picture Fisher and Pierce both hitting all kinds of huge shots in the playoffs. It's in character for both. At the same time, they haven't been doing that for a while now.
Robb, for one, is ready to end the Pierce isolation's reign as Boston's go-to crunch time play:
To be frank it’s had nearly no success lately. Say Pierce was to break out of this recent slump and return to his normal season numbers. If I’m a Celtics fans, I still don’t want Pierce taking that shot 100 percent of the time, as:
1) The other team knows it is coming
2) Paul Pierce is shooting in the mid 30’s from anywhere inside the arc. That’s not a high percentage shot.
So Doc Rivers, I implore you, take the ball out of your Captain’s hands at the end of games, if all you are going to be running are isolations. I still want to see Pierce involved in these end of games plays, but I want to see him getting to the hoop, or dishing the ball to Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, or (gasp) Michael Finley for an outside jumper. As of right now, there are plenty better outside shooters than Paul Pierce on this team.