Never one to shy away from a big moment on the grandest stage, Paul Pierce is one of the most hated Knicks opponents. He can carry the Celtics to victories, and still possesses the ability to match Carmelo Anthony shot-for-shot.
Without Rajon Rondo, the Celtics have implemented a ball-moving strategy on offense, which has limited the amount of isolation pressure put on Pierce’s shoulders. They run a lot of inverted pick-and-rolls for Pierce, with one of the guards setting the screen. The good news for the Knicks is that the Celtics have become a long two-point jump-shooting team, the enemy of most advanced statistics. While this lines up with what Pierce has done throughout his career, the lack of spacing should help New York harass and contest Pierce’s array of step backs, up-and-unders, and fadeaways.
Pierce does his damage from near the top of the key and on the wing launching three-pointers. About 46% of Pierce’s total attempts for the season came from one of those areas. In four games against the Knicks this season, Pierce took 32 of his 59 field goal attempts from 15+ feet away from the basket, hitting just 12 of them. Keep an eye on who Coach Woodson throws on Pierce throughout the game. Iman Shumpert, Kenyon Martin, and even Anthony should see time checking the second leading scorer in Celtics history.
The most important thing the Knicks can do to contain Pierce is keep him off the free throw line. He shot 29 total free throws in four games against the New York, an average of 7.3 per game. If the Knicks keep Pierce off the free throw line, and force him into launching long two-point jump shots, they’ll have solved one-fifth of the Celtics starting line up.
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