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A little sad.

May 11, 2009
Big Baby grows up to make a Big Bucket.

Big Baby grows up to make a Big Bucket.

Amidst the unyielding and celebratory exuberance after the game, I couldn’t help but be a little sad after Baby sunk that 20 footer to win the game– I had barely recovered from 30 seconds prior when Baby hit a 15 footer to give the Celts a 93-92 lead.

For so long we leaned on our captain, Paul Pierce, to be the guy that takes the most important shot when it mattered most. When the game was on the line, Pierce was our guy. He was our closer. The Truth.

With 1:07 left in the 4th, and the Celts up 91-90, Pierce tried to take control of the game. He dribbled at the top of the circle like he has done so often. He spun. He pumped faked. He faded away. He shot from about 14 feet. He missed. I can’t remember who was guarding him (Pietrus?), but he stayed with Pierce when he spun. He didn’t bite on the fake. He faded with Pierce to put a hand in his face.

On the final possession, with just 11 seconds left on the clock, most people expected the ball to be in Pierce’s hands. Pierce was 2-5 in the 1st Q, 3-3 in the 2nd Q, 3-3 in the 3rd Q, and 0-3 in the 4th Q. A cold 4th Q. When Pierce received the ball from Rondo, we all saw how this would play out: dribble, dribble, some hesitation/fake combo, and pop his mid-range 18-20 footer that is common in his arsenal.

Although this time, he didn’t shoot.
He found Baby wide open when the Magic rightfully doubled Pierce with lengthy Rashard Lewis and Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard. Baby was was the third option on that play (behind Pierce and Ray, who couldn’t get free), but also 2-3 FG in the 4th Q– a damn good third option.

Sometimes asking for help is the best way to empower others, and this is what Pierce did.
Pierce continues to show us that he understands what it takes to win. While everyone is praising Baby’s shot, we want to be sure to give props to Pierce’s ability to make a clean pass in order for Baby to catch and shoot with his feet already set.

Back in the day, fresh out of Kansas, as a rookie that saw plenty of playing time, Pierce had a decent jumper but could take the ball the rim quickly and finish strong. He was a finisher. He was a natural scorer. As his career progressed, and age/gravity became known variables to his abilities, Pierce changed his game to adapt. He worked tirelessly on that mid range jumper, and started smoothly executing pump fakes and hesitations.

Pierce wasnt the focus of the last play, but was certainly in the picture.

Pierce wasn't the focus of the last play, but was certainly in the picture.

People have been very critical of Pierce during this playoff series, myself included at times. We criticize his iso plays and heroic antics. Winning teams win because players understand their roles: some score, some pass, some are defensive specialist, some are enforcers. Paul used to be the scorer. But with his dedication to defense that started last season and welcoming Ray and KG, we can see him letting go of his offensive control of this team. He has turned into a different kind of play maker.

Change is hard; with difficult habits, addicts find themselves still falling off the wagon. We’ll still see moments when Pierce tries to make the last big shot every, but he’s learning to let go. Change is hard. But more often than not, change is necessary.

You’re still a winner. Still a champ. Still ’08 Finals MVP. You don’t need to sink a buzzer beater to be a winner. You’ve willed your way to leading this team through 62 wins this season, plus 6 more this post season. And it’s not over yet. I am glad you didn’t take that final shot and trusted Baby’s open shot was better than yours in double coverage.

But, it still makes me sad that you didn’t take that shot.

A winner.

A winner.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Ken permalink
    May 11, 2009 2:34 pm

    Did you see the highlight of Fenway Park going crazy when Baby hit the shot? The Rays player in the batter’s box was just calmly taking some warm-up swings, when the place went crazy – he flinched pretty hard and had to step out to compose himself. Pretty funny.

  2. May 11, 2009 8:11 pm

    Ken, I saw the crowd go nuts. It gave me the chills! It was AWESOME!

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