I went to the Barclays Center last month and watched the Brooklyn Nets kick the crap out of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Paul Pierce played 19 minutes in that game, going 5-of-6 from three-point range and scoring all of his 22 points in the first half, which he spent leisurely jogging between the arcs, spotting up, and splashing threes in Tristan Thompson's face. I don't think his heart rate ever got over 100 beats per minute. He was basically playing the same way Rasheed Wallace did during his last season with the Knicks, the only difference being that Pierce's shots were falling.
When I watched the clip above, I couldn't help but think about that game against the Cavs, because I remember leaving the arena that night and thinking that even though Pierce is old as hell and a shadow of the player he used to be, it's startling how easy this shit can still be for him. He scored 22 points in 14 first-half minutes without exerting himself any more than I do when I tie my shoes.
With three minutes left in Game 1 against the Raptors, Pierce was 2-9 from the floor. He was having the kind of game that an old, overmatched dude is supposed to have in the playoffs. And then he suddenly transformed into the guy I watched torment the Cavs a month ago. With the Nets up 79-76, Pierce went to work: a spot-up three from the right wing, a driving layup after shot-faking and euro-stepping his way into the paint, a pull-up jumper on the left baseline, and then the dagger above.
Paul Pierce spent most of his Saturday afternoon playing shitty basketball, and then he won his team a playoff game in three minutes. That's what he does. That's why he's here.