Dribble to a spot. Create separation. Rise. Splash.
When Paul Pierce has it going, it’s that easy. He’s not always the smoothest player but when his midrange game is working, Pierce is as efficient as they come. Put a smaller player on him, and he’ll back his way to his spot, turn, and release a shot he knows won’t be bothered. Put a player his size or taller on him, and he’ll take a dribble or two, followed by one step back, then release a shot he knows won’t be bothered. When it comes to getting unmolested jumpers off, Pierce is one of the best. Always in control, always poised and deliberate, always able to get free from his defender just long enough to get his shot off.
For awhile this season, his midrange game had abandoned him. But it came back last night, and abruptly.
After another ehhh first half (6 points), Pierce returned the land of midrange. “In the third quarter, we decided to spread the court a bit and I was able to find space,” he said. Well, that and the basket started to look the size of the ocean. He made his first seven field goals of the second half. He got whatever he wanted. He alerted Milwaukee that he would be a matchup problem should the two teams meet in the playoffs. 18 second-half points, and they were easy ones. Just like things used to be.
The Celtics’ intensity level was just like it used to be, too.
“With about four minutes to go in the second quarter, they started getting really physical with us,” Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. “And we didn’t respond really well to that.” I guess he doesn’t consider a Kurt Thomas belly-to-back suplex of Glen Davis responding well. Or Jerry Stackhouse working on his mixed martial arts ground game against Pierce. Or maybe Skiles’ own temper tantrum, which resulted in his ejection from the game, was the poor response he referred to.
“Boston is like big bullies from school,” proclaimed Brandon Jennings. “A lot of teams don’t like that.” But, Jennings said, the Bucks do. “All I can say is just sit back, get ready for the playoffs, because this is fitting to be crazy. We’re up for it and it’s going to be a crazy series.”
Jennings continued, “Jerry (Stackhouse) told me on the court, he said ‘Watch when the playoffs come, this is shifting to be fun.”
Maybe. But, if Pierce keeps his midrange game going, the potential series with Boston might not be so fun for Milwaukee after all.