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NBA / Jun 9, 2010 / 2:44 pm

Paul Pierce’s confidence unshaken going into Game 4

Paul Pierce, Dime #5

If Paul Pierce considers the NBA Finals his stage to prove he’s the best player in basketball, he only has between two and four more chances to re-establish the position he earned in ’08, when the Finals MVP declared himself the League’s top dog.

Three games into the 2010 Finals, Pierce is struggling. In Game 1 he put up a team-high 24 points, but since then has averaged 12.5 points on 30 percent (7-for-23) shooting from the field. In last night’s Game 3, while Ray Allen was playing like Ray Romano, Pierce needed to step up and deliver in crunch time. Otherwise, Kevin Garnett (25 pts) might as well have been playing for the Timberwolves again, trying to do it all alone.

He didn’t. Pierce hit one big three in the fourth quarter, but his only other bucket was a driving layup and-one with about 40 seconds left; and he missed the subsequent free throw that would have cut L.A.’s lead to four. After making headlines by declaring during Game 2 that the Celtics weren’t coming back to L.A. — essentially predicting a home court sweep in Boston — now Pierce’s only hope at winning a second championship hinges on forcing a return trip to the Lakers’ gym.

Asked after Game 3 if he was being overconfident, Pierce said: “I’m not going to win a game in L.A. and say we’re coming back. I mean, no, that means I’m saying we’re going to lose at home. I’m confident in my ballclub, so if I do say that type of stuff it’s all in good spirit. I want to win, just like they want to win. We’ve got to go back to L.A., just got to do it the hard way. Not a problem.”

In the first two games of the series, Ron Artest was credited for slowing Pierce down. Artest’s strength and discipline to not fall for Pierce’s usual array of pump fakes and feints makes him almost the perfect defender to use against Pierce. But Artest was on the bench early with foul trouble in Game 3, meaning Pierce was often matched up with Luke Walton, and he still couldn’t get an offensive rhythm going.

“With me, I thought I missed shots in the first half with some good looks,” Pierce was quoted in the Boston Globe. “I’ll take those looks all night long, the ones I got. It wasn’t about my shots, it’s about going out there as a team trying to win the game. We broke down on little things. That’s the difference between winning and losing in the championship and playoffs, the difference in one or two plays. And I just thought we broke down on little plays down the stretch, giving [Derek] Fisher some open looks on the elbow, that really cost us at the end.”

Pierce said the Celtics had something of an impromptu players-only meeting immediately after Game 3, and promised to bounce back strong in Game 4.

Personally, I don’t have a problem with Pierce (or any athlete) making direct or indirect guarantees. Having been in enough locker rooms and in press conferences, I’ve seen how some reporters basically bait a player into making a guarantee, then write it up like the player acted without provocation.

And some people ridicule when the prediction doesn’t come true, but at the same time, would anybody want their team’s star — or any player on the roster — going into games not 100 percent confident that they’ll win? True, nobody goes into an NBA season expecting to go 82-0, then fo’, fo’, fo’ and fo’ in the playoffs, but predicting a home sweep in the Finals is better than saying, “Well, um, I hope we’ll win.” So if Pierce were to predict the Celtics take the next two games at home, then finish off the Lakers in Game 6, that’s his role as team leader.

“I feel great,” Pierce said. “I know we still haven’t played our best basketball and we’re capable of winning these games. Even the game we won, we didn’t feel like we played well. Our best basketball is going to come and I know it’s going to come before it’s too late.”

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  • No Money

    Should write an article on who people hate more. Pierce or Kobe.

  • EN FUEGO

    ^^^^ HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA who do you wanna hate more, the cocky one or the over-confident one? same shit. but they back up what they say. most of the time.

    the foot in mouth interview. and pierce needs to realize, artest maybe strong but he aint crapping disciplined. he’s too old and too slow to react to them fakes and shit pierce gives him. never mind the moves, just go at ron straight up, fast without hesitation and explode. he’ll be eating your dust before you know it.

  • BM24

    If Artest can stay out of foul trouble the next two games than Pierce will be nothing more than what he has been up until now during this series. His over-confidence is misplaced in a team of inconsistent players that are overmatched.

    Game 3 was the tipping point of the series which LA firmly grasped. I still see a 7 game series, neither team has played a great game and the refs are sadly controlling the flow of the series. Pierce will have a big game at some point though I’d expect.

  • ShaqFu

    How can Paul Pierce even think he is better than Kobe or Lebron in any year is a joke! The last year that he was better than Lebron was in 1999 when he was 22 and the King was 15!

    Does anyone in the world actually think the Lakers and the Cavs have the records they did in 2008 if they had Paul Pierce instead of Kobe or Lebron on the team?

  • EN FUEGO

    LeBron is definitely better than Pierce since 1999.

    but in the 4th quarter? NAH.

    5 minutes left in the game? AINT NO WAY.

    Down 1 with seconds left on the clock? NOPE.

    In the playoffs? HELL NO.

    In game 7 of the NBA Finals? FUCK NO.

    Shaq the FUck up.

  • D.I. Dollar

    If Paul Pierce considers the NBA Finals his stage to prove he’s the best player in basketball

    Paul Pierce isn’t close to being the best player in basketball, shit he ain’t even the best player on his team. Rondo is.

    It’s getting a little ridiculous with all this Boston is the best because… crap on Dime lately. You guys should just write a post called “We Want Boston To Win The Finals” and get it over with. At least I would know to stop checking in for awhile.

  • Lake Fan

    I second D.I. Dollar. What’s with all this Boston dick riding Dime??? Is Boston paying you guys like how they are paying off the refs???