NBA / Mar 12, 2010 / 4:00 pm

Who’s More Clutch: Paul Pierce or Ray Allen?

Ray Allen, Dime #11

As much as the Celtics are supposed to be struggling, and as much as I root for the Pacers, I’m just not seeing an upset special when Boston hosts Indiana tonight. The C’s have had a day to rest, an extra day to think about how they got booed by their own fans in a blowout loss to Memphis on Wednesday. Indiana is coming off a win over the Sixers, and they’re getting Danny Granger back from a one-game suspension, but still, my gut says a motivated Boston squad will make an example of the Pacers before Sunday’s potentially season-defining test at Cleveland.

If tonight’s game does go down to the wire, however, who will the Celtics trust to win it for them? A couple days ago DimeMag.com’s reader poll asked: Down two, one possession left, who gets the ball? The options were Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. In a surprise — at least to me — Pierce narrowly edged Ray by just two votes out of a couple hundred. I thought The Truth would take it by a much larger margin.

There’s a very good chance this was just a case of short memories. After all, the poll went up not long after Ray had knocked down two clutch three-pointers to help Boston fend off the Wizards in a national TV game. And the night before the poll was posted, Pierce missed a jumper at the buzzer that could have forced overtime in Boston’s loss to Milwaukee. Plus, Pierce has been banged-up and obviously not at his usual level of performance most of the season.

Before this season, when I ranked the NBA’s best go-to players, I had Pierce at No. 3, ahead of LeBron, Duncan, Dirk, Brandon Roy and ‘Melo, among others. Only Kobe and D-Wade were higher. Arguing against the false perception that Pierce suddenly emerged as an elite clutch scorer in Boston’s championship run of 2008, I wrote:

Pierce isn’t brand-new to this go-to guy thing. Six years before this new Big Three formed, Pierce was leading the Celtics to the conference finals, putting up 26 points a night at 24 years old while carrying a roster that had Eric Williams and end-of-the-road Kenny Anderson in the starting five. Through thick and thin, he’s going on a solid decade as The Man for his team, a title only a couple of players can actively lay claim to, and that experience is on full display when Boston needs it most. The ’08 Finals was not Pierce’s breakout, it was his coronation.

That’s not to say Ray hasn’t put in years of being a go-to guy himself. Like Pierce, he carried some subpar teams in Seattle, after making his bones in Milwaukee. And since joining the Celtics, Ray has hit more than his share of game-winners, game-tying buckets, and game-icing free throws. Because Doc Rivers is one of the NBA’s best coaches at drawing up plays to get good shots for the right guy in crunch time, Ray can be more than a decoy and as much of a threat for the defense as Pierce in any situation. And if the Celtics need to hit a three, then Ray is definitely the first option.

Otherwise, though, I still think Pierce is definitively the right call when Boston needs a clutch bucket. But maybe Pierce’s injuries have become too much. Or maybe Ray’s obsessive work ethic and attention to his body — and Pierce’s, well, not-so-obsessive regimen — is beginning to reveal itself as the two superstars move farther into their 30’s.

I still believe what I wrote in that go-to guys piece: “No matter how good Rondo gets, no matter how large Garnett‘s presence may be, no matter how many open shots it means for Ray Allen, if you’re defending the Celtics at a time when they need to score, your first priority is Pierce. And if he doesn’t deliver, it feels more like his mistake than your accomplishment.”

At this point, who is more clutch: Pierce or Ray?

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  • fallinup

    Pierce… just get him the ball and let him work. With Allen… it’s get him an open shot and let him shoot.

    I’ll take Pierce.

  • LakeShow84

    Yeah as far as clutch goes you have to be able to CREATE ur own shot..

    Like fallinup said RayRay is clutch but u need to get him an open look.. Pierce makes his own..

  • srb

    last shot goes to Ray easily, but if you need a score late in the game you’re going to Pierce. He’ll drive and shoot, pull up, or drive and dish to the open man.

  • Fred

    Kobe Bean Bryant.

  • IG

    Neither. KG, RayRay, and Paul are collectively clutch. They didn’t win squat when they were all on separate teams.

  • Gus

    I very much agree with the fact that Ray Ray cannot create his own shot and needs an open look. However, the question being asked is “who’s more clutch?”. Just b/c Pierce can create his own shot doesnt mean shit. How many times has he had the chance to win a game or force OT by bullying his way to the elbow and missing a jumper. Its frustrating being a Ray Ray fan b/c everyone knows last possesion is going to be an iso for Pierce who will end up getting a lousy shot off and not scoring. The problem is that the C’s dont really have any other options late in the game as running a play to get Ray a jump shot is easier said then done. All I know is when we talkin about clutch, like making game winning shots or hitting shots to force ot with under 10 seconds left, Ray Ray is the man. Giving Pierce an iso when the C’s are up 4 with 45 sec left and him scoring is not clutch.

  • Gus

    PS—IG you are one stupid individual. Did you expect the Sonics Celts or the Timberwolves to win a championship?? use ur head before you post something like that.

  • RC

    If it is a couple of possessions I’ll give the ball to Paul Pierce and isolate him from top of the key.

    If it is a one possession I’ll go for Ray Ray. I’ll make sure he gets a play where he gets a clean look.

    Both are clutch.

  • b

    allen for a 3… pierce for a 2 pointer. the guy is just like kobe in that he will always get his shot off on the elbow

  • wuuuut
  • UR2EZ

    LOL LOL LOL???????????

    listen and listen clealy…..

    IN THE NBA RIGHT NOW NO ONE IS MORE CLUTCH THAN RAY EITHER WITH A 6’11 IN HIS FACE (noah of the bulls in playoffs) and almost at half court (ray when he was on seattle and he was playing the jazz i believe)

  • http://gkash.yolasite.com UR2EZ

    and to ppl who think ray can’t create his own shots you obviously wasn’t watching him when he was on the Sonics or Bucks

  • ZScape9

    I’ve long admired both Paul and Ray as elite scorers AND pretty clutch players. I’ll say this though about a last shot: If you’re really familiar with Ray’s body of work throughout his career (and because he played for two very small-market teams with small fan bases and often mediocre teams, most people truly are not), other than Kobe, it is very difficult to name someone who is clearly a more “clutch” “game on the line” option than Ray. He’s been money with a game on the line for a LONG Time.

    Now, I agree with everyone who says that Paul is better at creating his own shot (although, this was not always clearly the case either. When he was younger, Ray was pretty damned good at creating off the dribble, too. This fact was always obscured by his exploits with the jumper, and now that he’s lost a step – wait, make that about 3 and a half steps with the years and 3 ankle surguries – the national audience that he finally has with the Celtics will only be able to remember him for what he does now. So most fans may never know that about his game, but the players do. In fact, MJ even commented about it in one of his books, when speaking about why/how he chose his initial Brand Jordan roster.).

    Anyway, because Paul DOES give you a decided advantage in creating his own shot at this point, I would DEFINITELY put the ball in the Truth’s hands (given time to run a floor play), but I would run the actual play FOR RAY. Ray would be my first option, because I would definitely prefer (however slightly) that Sugar Ray actually take the shot. However, this way, if the pass isn’t there, then I’ve got a pretty sweet option, with the ball already in his hands to make something happen.

    Of course if either one of them has had the hot hand all game / all quarter, or if one of them has a particularly weak defender on them, then all bets are off; I’m going to that guy. Period.