A Hall of Fame performance is rarely the act of an individual.
Paul Pierce’s fourth quarter takeover in Game 1, combined with his declaration of “That’s Why I’m Here!” while running back to the huddle was, though wildly entertaining, no exception.
It wasn’t only Pierce’s veteran guile or his lifetime of difficult shot-making experience at work, but carefully executed Nets offense that cleverly put Pierce into creases in the Raptors defense, freeing him for his 4th quarter burst.
Take for example this possession late in the fourth quarter.
The Nets begin the possession with Deron Williams and Joe Johnson cleared out for a side pick-and-roll. This is an action the Nets go to quite often late in games, specifically with this pair, hoping to get Williams’ smaller defender switched onto the much larger Joe Johnson.
After Game 1, Pierce noted how he was the 3rd option on some of these plays. If we are to surmise that Williams and Johnson are options #1 and #2, then that leaves lonely, old future Hall-of-Famer Pierce as the third option, two steps off the three-point line.
The Raptors help defenders all begin the possession actively engaged in both the ball and their man responsibilities, but as Williams comes off the Johnson screen and begins attacking the nail, attention shifts to the rolling Johnson and the surging Williams.
By design, Garnett “screens the rotation,” setting a flare screen on Patrick Patterson as Williams gets to the middle of the floor. Already stuck with a deep closeout due to how the Nets space the floor, Patterson’s job becomes even more difficult as he’s getting screened by Garnett.
At this point, it’s an easy catch-and-shoot for one of the game’s best big game shooters.
In a lot of ways, the Nets simplify their offense in crunch time as their focus shifts to exploiting matchups. Pierce’s ability to hang tough on defense and on the glass as the power forward gives the Nets one such mismatch to exploit in this series.
Now it’s up to the Hall of Famer to do what he does.