|Whether it’s a dunk or a jumper, Paul Pierce says it isn’t about how many shots he gets — it’s simply about getting wins. (Adam Hunger/Reuters)|
Pierce and Allen just trying to do their share
It’s a classic Catch-22. On the one hand, Celtics coach Doc Rivers feels he has to reestablish Paul Pierce as the go-to guy as his team builds toward the playoffs. On the other, in order to get Ray Allen going — and for the offense to run smoothly as a whole — the ball has to move.
To a degree, the two agendas are at odds with each other, and the results are frustrating opposites.
One night, the entire game flows through Pierce, as it did against Charlotte March 3. He’s getting isolations. He’s running the point. He’s controlling the offense, and the fact that Allen takes only two shots and scores just 3 points sort of sneaks up you because Pierce scores 27 points, looking as good as he has since he sat a week with the flu and a bad thumb.
Other nights, like Tuesday in Milwaukee, Pierce will take a team-high 13 shots, miss 10 of them and the fact that Allen took just three shots becomes much more glaring, especially considering that since the All-Star break he has been a human torch.
In the middle of it all is Rajon Rondo, the point guard who has to decide who should get the ball and how the offense should flow.
Against Memphis Wednesday, Rondo made a conscious effort to look to Allen’s side of the floor early on. Allen finished with a team-high 17 points on 14 shots. The only shot Pierce took in the first quarter — a baseline jumper off a pass from Allen — didn’t make it into the books because Rudy Gay fouled him on the arm. Otherwise, he was invisible in the first quarter and relatively quiet much of the night, though he scored 14 points on eight shots.
“Paul’s not playing well yet,’’ Rivers said. “We have to live through that and we have to play through that. But I think that’s something we have to do through playing in games. I don’t think you sit him or rest him or anything like that. I just think you play through it.’’
Pierce would find himself driving to the paint, only to kick the ball out to Kevin Garnett. Or he’d set up at the elbow, then shovel back to Garnett or Rondo up top.
“We run a motion offense where we make that extra pass, and maybe I could have been more aggressive, but I thought the extra pass was there,’’ Pierce said. “Especially in the first quarter, rather than me try to force a shot up, I just try to play within the flow of the offense. It’s not about, ‘Paul Pierce gets the shots.’
“Some nights I’m going to get more shots, some nights I’m not. You look at Ray, he’s one of the best scorers of all time, and only got three shots [Tuesday]. It shouldn’t happen that way, but sometimes it happens that way. That’s no excuse why we win or lose.’’
Pierce going without a shot in the first quarter of a regular-season game isn’t akin to Kobe Bryant’s disappearing act (three shots, 1 point in the second half) in Game 7 of the Lakers’ first-round playoff loss to the Phoenix Suns in 2006. Rivers said it wasn’t even similar to Allen taking those three shots in Milwaukee.
“Paul had the ball in his hands a lot,’’ Rivers said. “He couldn’t get a shot off. He moved the ball. So I don’t mind that. The difference between Paul and Ray is Ray didn’t have the ball at all the other night. Paul had the ball a ton. As a matter of fact, [assistant coach] Kevin [Eastman], one of our guys who counts that, thought he had the ball as much as anybody in the first quarter. So he just didn’t get shots.’’
Pierce insists that he’s getting the looks he wants and that the shots he’s putting up feel good to him. They just aren’t falling.
“I don’t even think it’s really about shots,’’ Allen said. “It’s just about being well-tuned, well-oiled as an offense. Everybody has to be selfless. Open man gets the ball. Everybody has to make the screen, make a cut, make a pass for somebody else.
“That’s what teams are doing to us. With the talent we have, everybody’s a weapon out there, so we have to use everybody.’’
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.