Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
This is what Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers had to say after his team lost its third game in a row earlier this week: "This team is not a good team right now."
Think those harsh words motivated Paul Pierce at all Wednesday night against Cleveland?
You tell me.
Pierce's 40 points versus the Cavs represented a season-high and most importantly, it gave the reeling C's a much-needed victory.
If the end of the world really is just hours away (your move, Mayans) Pierce's performance on Wednesday wouldn't be a bad way to go out. Pierce is now one of just seven players in the last 20 years to have scored 40 or more points after the age of 35.
The others? Larry Bird, Clyde Drexler, Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, Reggie Miller and Shaquille O'Neal.
Weird, I've never heard of any of them.
What's even more impressive is that Pierce only needed 16 shots to accomplish said feat. According to Lucidsportsfan.com (they get their information from Basketball Reference), Pierce is the first player to score 40 points on 16 or fewer shot attempts since Amare Stoudemire did it in 2010 and just the 13th player to do this since 1985.
It was a phenomenal game and not something we would have expected from a player in his 15th year of NBA service. Which leads us to the real question: can we expect more nights like this from Pierce or was Wednesday just a fluke?
Though Pierce's 20.4 ppg this season is good for ninth in the league (the last time Pierce finished in the top ten in scoring was back in 2005-06), his percentages have never been lower. Take away Wednesday's stats and Pierce's current 43.6 field goal percentage falls to a much more pedestrian 41.9. If you subtract the six threes Pierce made on Wednesday, his three-point percentage drops from 38.8 percent to an even 36 percent, which would be his lowest success rate from that distance since 2005-06 (35.4 percent).
Even at his current 43.6 percent, Pierce isn't exactly setting the world on fire. But that's still not enough for me to sour on No. 34.
You can make fun of his patchy facial hair and his signature slow motion crossover all you want (he also used to be one of the league's biggest floppers before the league cracked down on such behavior) but at the end of the day, Pierce is still an extremely valuable fantasy player.
Why? Because fantasy isn't about efficiency. If it was, guys like Pierce and Russell Westbrook (42.9 career shooting percentage) would never get drafted.
It's a pretty simple concept, actually. If you take more shots, you'll score more points.
And that's exactly what Pierce has done this season. Pierce's 15 shots per game are his most since 2006-07 (18.1 per game). As a result, Pierce's scoring average this season is the highest its been since 2008-09 (20.5 ppg).
Pierce's increased involvement in the Celtics' offense this season is likely a product of Ray Allen's departure. Allen accounted for 10.7 shots per game during his final season in Beantown, while his replacement Jason Terry has only attempted 8.7 per contest this season. Those extra two shots seem to be going to Pierce.
Volume is everything in fantasy. A three or four percent differential in field goal percentage (basically Pierce's 43.6 percent versus Carlos Boozer's 47.5 percent) won't cost you your fantasy league. In fact, a lot of leagues (including the head-to-head league I compete in) don't even factor in field goal percentage. It's all about who has the most points.
Field goal percentage is overrated in fantasy and often times a bit misleading. Tyson Chandler is shooting 70.3 percent this season, which leads the NBA. That's dandy but would you really consider him a more valuable offensive player than Pierce?
Chandler, a seven-footer who mostly scores on tip-backs and dunks, shoots only 6.9 times per game and his scoring average is more than seven points per game lower than Pierce's. Chandler also isn't shooting any three-pointers (he's only attempted eight in his career) so he's getting two points on all his field goals where Pierce, who takes nearly five threes per game, is often getting three.
Even shooting a relatively low percentage, Pierce has been very consistent, scoring at least 15 in eight of his last nine appearances. Plus, Pierce is a master at getting to the free-throw line (sixth in the NBA with 6.6 free throw tries per game), where he's converting on 81.8 percent of his attempts.
Some fear the increased workload could eventually wear Pierce down later in the season but I don't think that's a major concern. Since 2007-08, Pierce has appeared in 398 of the team's 419 regular season games including all 25 of Boston's games in 2012-13.
Assuming we survive the apocalypse the Mayans have scheduled for Friday, "The Truth" should continue to be among the more prized possessions in fantasy hoops.
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