There were basically two narratives concerning the Miami Heat’s second-round series with the Brooklyn Nets leading into game one on Tuesday night. The first (that was tirelessly mentioned) was that the Nets swept the Heat 4-0 in the 2013-14 NBA regular season. The second was that Paul Pierce always steps up his game when he faces LeBron James.
However, Pierce was stifled almost completely on Tuesday night as the Heat cruised to a 107-86 victory and a 1-0 lead in the series. In 29 minutes on the floor, the veteran forward put up just eight points and six rebounds while shooting 3-8 from the floor, 2-4 from three and not getting to the line a single time.
The Nets were 14.8 points per 100 possessions better when Pierce was on the floor, but that doesn’t change the fact that he had little statistical impact of his own doing. Brooklyn clearly looked to play to their matchup advantages by giving Joe Johnson and Deron Williams a plethora of touches, but the Heat will thrive if they continue to shut down Pierce.
Obviously the Heat have the ability to throw a number of guys at Pierce that can slow him down, most notably MVP-runner-up LeBron James. Keeping the aging veteran in-check is so vital to Miami’s success, though, because of how important Pierce’s production has been to Brooklyn’s success thus far in the postseason.
In the Nets’ four wins so far in these playoffs, Pierce has averaged 13.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists and just 1.3 turnovers per game while shooting 46.3 percent from the floor and 41.2 percent from three. In their four losses, though, Pierce has put up just 11.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 2.3 turnovers per game on 44.7 percent shooting and 30 percent shooting from long-range.
Though Pierce isn’t the go-to guy that he was in his days with the Boston Celtics, he’s still a vital part of the Nets’ success. His offensive production serves as a steadying hand for Brooklyn which normally results in their success. If the Heat are able to contain him, they should be able to relatively easily continue their march to a three-peat.