PP for MVP

By Stephen Alford
Updated: March 10, 2006

BOSTON, MA—Yes, the Celtics may not make the playoffs this year (and are probably better off if they don’t qualify for postseason play), but if by some luck of the Leprechaun the Cs are able to claim the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and meet the Detroit Pistons in the first round then Celtics captain Paul Pierce will have to have worked his way up the rungs of candidacy for the NBA’s coveted Most Valuable Player Award. Even if Boston ends up as a 2006 Lottery team, Pierce would still deserve consideration as MVP. He has provided what no other player in the League has provided for his team. Everything. The Truth is the only player in the League who is leading his team in points, rebounding, scoring, and assists. He has scored 30 or more points in seven consecutive games (34.3 points per game), a feat that not even the greats Larry Legend or Hondo Havlicek accomplished while suiting up for the Green, and has led Boston to a 5-2 record in that time span. In addition, in that seven game stretch, no game was decided by more than seven points (96-103 loss to Miami), which makes Pierce’s production all that more important.

When asked about Pierce’s play in the last three weeks, Celtics coach Doc Rivers responded by saying, “I think it’s the best everybody has seen him play. I don’t know, I don’t remember before I was here. I’m sure he had some runs, but this is a sustained run.

”It’s a great individual accomplishment, but I’m not here for the individual accomplishments,” told The Truth, who is also sixth in the NBA in scoring with a 27.2 average. ”I’m trying to help my team win. That’s what I’m all about. I don’t go into every game trying to score 30 points. I’m just trying to win.”

Other than Pierce, only Allen Iverson has scored 15 points or more in every game this season. And when Pierce hosted Iverson on Wednesday, Pierce not only recorded his first triple-double of the season with 31 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists en route to a 104-99 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, he also nailed a shot from beyond the arc with 27.4 seconds left in the game giving Boston a one point lead (100-99) and capping off a comeback from a seven-point deficit when there was 3:20 left in the game. The shot was made just after he had hit another trifecta with 1:21 to play, bringing Boston to within two points (97-99). “It (The game) got away when Pierce hit those two threes,” said Philadelphia coach Maurice Cheeks following the loss. “He hit two threes, two big threes, he hit one coming down the floor, then he hit another one they set a little double screen for him right in front of myself and that’s where it got away. We obviously didn’t score. We didn’t score down the stretch of that game so it looked like we had that game in hand once again and obviously Paul was the difference, at least down the stretch.”

Allen Iverson echoed Cheeks’ sentiments. “We just didn’t get it done man, we didn’t finish this game out. There is no reason we should have lost this basketball game it was right there for us and we just gave it away.”

The Celtics have turned things around since rookie Ryan Gomes has stepped into the starting rotation, but that is only because Gomes’ game compliments Pierce’s. Gomes is a midrange player who has proven he can nail an occasional shot from the deep end, but he is most comfortable down in the trenches battling in the blocks and being the team’s garbage man. And because he moves without the ball so well, the rookie out of Providence was on the receiving end of many a Pierce pass when the Sixers went to double-team the Celtic captain. After posting career highs in scoring in back to back games, Gomes had this to say, “I just doing what I saw worked the last game and just try to beat guys up and down the floor and get easy baskets, fouls, make free throws, and just make it easy on myself and easy on my teammates.”

Gomes knows the recent success of the Celtics is due to the play of their leader. “He’s hitting shots in the clutch. We’re keeping it close enough that he can just finish it off for us at the right time. He’s made two big shots in the last two games and we’re just finding our guys in the right spots in order to have the best advantage.”

“I’m just going out playing the way I know how to play. We’re just having fun, staying positive, we feel like we can win each game. We turned it around ever since we gained a lot of confidence out West and I think it’s starting to carry over,” said Pierce.

In all likelihood the Celtics will not be much competition to Detroit if they were to get the eighth spot from Milwaukee. The Green are currently three games behind Milwaukee for the eighth and final playoff spot, and will host the Bucks tonight at the TD Banknorth Garden. But that’s not going to stop Pierce from trying to qualify for the playoffs. “The opportunity is in front of us. We’ve got another game with Milwaukee to move up another game. It’s right there for us. It’s just how bad we want it. We have nothing to lose. Nobody expects us to make the playoffs.”

With the way The Truth has been playing, the Buck that has the inevitable task of having to check the NBA’s hottest player is going to have his hands full the entire 40 minutes that Pierce is on the court.