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NBA Finals, Lakers Celtics: Paul Pierce vs. Ron Artest

Jun 1, 2010, 9:32 AM EST

Thumbnail image for Pierce_celebrates.jpgTwo years ago, the Lakers tried to guard Paul Pierce in the Finals with Vladimir Radmanovic. Los Angeles might as well have tried to wrap Pierce up in wet toilet paper, it’s about the same deterrent. Pierce did whatever he wanted against the Lakers then starter, got in a rhythm and became almost unstoppable.

This time around, the matchup at the three is far more interesting — Ron Artest vs. Pierce. Two hard-nosed players. Two guys with some street in them, who will fight back. Two guys prone to sell calls. Artest the defender against Pierce the scorer.

This time around the three spot will be a battleground. Pierce told ESPNBoston he knows what’s coming.

“He’s the most physical player at the wing position,” said Pierce. “He
plays the forward/guard position like a power forward or center. He
likes to bang you, get on your body, grab you, hold you, pull down your
shorts. He’ll do anything. You guys know that, just from watching him
over the years. He’ll do anything to get in an opponent’s head. From
playing him over the years, I’m used to the things he tries to do. I
just go out there and play my game, not get into the antics.”

Pierce is still going to get his — he had 26 points on 7 of 20 (35 percent) shooting for the two games where the teams faced off this season, and he averaged well over a point per possession used. Zach at Celtics Hub looked farther back and when Pierce has been matched up on Artest from 2006 until now, Pierce has averaged 188 .points per game on 43 percent shooting, and is 36 percent from three.

Not bad numbers, but Pierce has to work hard for those points. Certainly a lot harder than he did against whatever it was that Vlad Rad was playing in 2008 (I wouldn’t call it defense).

Watching Pierce in the two games this season against the Lakers (thank you MySynergySports) a few things stood out.

Pierce’s best looks came in transition. With Rajon Rondo pushing the pace the Lakers would collapse back to protect against his drives and if Pierce went Orlando Magic playbook and just ran down and spotted up for a three he got wide-open looks. He also got some good looks off one of the Celtics favorite plays, where he pops-out off a pin-down screen (those down screens the Celtics set are some of the best in basketball, not always the most legal with some grabbing going on, but very effective).

In the half court, if Pierce ran the pick-and-roll the Lakers almost always switched, letting Lamar Odom or Pau Gasol take Pierce, and he struggled to exploit that. Gasol and Odom are both long and disrupt shots.

Pierce got shots against the Lakers in those games, and he can still get hot, he can still carry the Celtics offense. But he’s going to have to really work for it. Artest is not what he was as a defender five years ago, but he is pit bull relentless — he is strong, fights through picks well and does not give up on plays when others might (just ask the Suns about the end of Game 5).

This battle is just going to be fun to watch.

  1. Omnius - Jun 1, 2010 at 3:52 PM

    Ron Artest is Too Fierce for Paul Pierce! Going to be fun watching Ron Ron take on Pierce in the Finals. Artest really bonded with the Lakers in games 5 and 6 of the Suns series. I’m hoping that Artest gets to run Pierce ragged defending him now that he’s rediscovered his offense. Going to be a great matchup and the Lakers are going to get revenge for 2008. Lakers in 6 games though it would be more satisfying to see them wrap it up in Boston in 5.

  2. Dave - Jun 1, 2010 at 4:56 PM

    Putting Artest on Pierce will diminish Artest’s offensive production, but will curtail Pierce’s production marginally. The writer is right that Pierce will pick up three’s in transition and get looks off picks. The Celtics will be glad to yield 35 to 40 points for Kobe by shutting down LA’s other offensive weapons. KG will shut down Gasol, Perkins and Wallace will tame Odom and Rondo is too quick for Fisher. Lakers fans think the Suns prepared the Lakers for this Final. Whew! Wait until they run into Boston’s buzzsaw defense. No games over 100 points for LA and Celtics will win in six.

  3. Dave - Jun 1, 2010 at 4:57 PM

    Putting Artest on Pierce will diminish Artest’s offensive production, but will curtail Pierce’s production marginally. The writer is right that Pierce will pick up three’s in transition and get looks off picks. The Celtics will be glad to yield 35 to 40 points for Kobe by shutting down LA’s other offensive weapons. KG will shut down Gasol, Perkins and Wallace will tame Odom and Rondo is too quick for Fisher. Lakers fans think the Suns prepared the Lakers for this Final. Whew! Wait until they run into Boston’s buzzsaw defense. No games over 100 points for LA and Celtics will win in six.

  4. chris - Jun 1, 2010 at 6:16 PM

    Dave – 3 things that are wrong with your post.
    1. Artest is not counted on for his “offensive production” as you state. Anything he gets offensively is a bonus.
    2. Perkins will be on Bynum not Odom.
    3. Rondo may be quicker than Fisher as any player 10 years younger should be, but I assure you Kobe will be guarding him the majority of the time and Rondo will most certainly have major problems in that match up. You may want to reconsider your prediction now that things are clear and correct. Lakers in 6.

  5. Anonymous - Jun 1, 2010 at 6:28 PM

    Never

  6. Anonymous - Jun 1, 2010 at 6:51 PM

    Artest is hungry for a ring, like a pit bull.

  7. docdiaz1 - Jun 1, 2010 at 9:20 PM

    All of Y’all Boston lovers is in for a Great Shock !!!!

  8. Shadow - Jun 1, 2010 at 10:23 PM

    Hey Chris her is a good question so you put Kobe on Rondo, then who guards Ray?

  9. P.B.inLosAngeles - Jun 1, 2010 at 10:25 PM

    “The Suns have a better bench”
    Charles Barkley
    “Deron Williams is the best point guard in the NBA, Fisher has no chance”
    Concesnsus
    “Steve Nash is too saavy for Fisher”
    TNT Broadcast Team
    “Rondo cannot attack the rim like Westbrook can”
    Chris Webber
    Lakes might sweep these fools

  10. luffy - Jun 1, 2010 at 10:38 PM

    Boston Defense? Please… that’s so overrated, could you count how many blocks and rebounds Boston has per game, Phoenix and Oklahoma had more blocks and rebounds. what makes them look good in defense is because the teams in the East just suck in shooting the ball. Just count how many attempts Orlando and Cleveland had in their series and you’ll understand.
    If you watched the regular season, Bynum just dominates the paint in their games vs. the Celtics. Shoots over Rasheed, dunks over Perkins and Garnett. Defense my A$$!!!
    On the Rondo thing, please… The Lakers overcame the best PGs in the NBA right now except for Derek Rose. Not individual Defense but by team defense, give credit to Fisher though as he played a big part on those. Westbrook, D. Williams and Steve Nash people, so please stop w/the Rondo thing, yes Fisher can’t stop him but the Lakers can…
    Lakers in 5 or 6…

  11. luffy - Jun 1, 2010 at 10:41 PM

    Boston Defense? Please… that’s so overrated, could you count how many blocks and rebounds Boston has per game, Phoenix and Oklahoma had more blocks and rebounds. what makes them look good in defense is because the teams in the East just suck in shooting the ball. Just count how many attempts Orlando and Cleveland had in their series and you’ll understand.
    If you watched the regular season, Bynum just dominates the paint in their games vs. the Celtics. Shoots over Rasheed, dunks over Perkins and Garnett. Defense my A$$!!!
    On the Rondo thing, please… The Lakers overcame the best PGs in the NBA right now except for Derek Rose. Not individual Defense but by team defense, give credit to Fisher though as he played a big part on those. Westbrook, D. Williams and Steve Nash people, so please stop w/the Rondo thing, yes Fisher can’t stop him but the Lakers can…
    Lakers in 5 or 6…

  12. mikesporty - Jun 1, 2010 at 10:55 PM

    lakers in 5

  13. jeff - Jun 1, 2010 at 11:27 PM

    Dave. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY thinks Phoenix prepared the Lakers for Boston.

  14. R_Blue - Jun 2, 2010 at 2:32 AM

    Shadow –
    “who guards Ray?”
    Good question – but it’s not entirely about matchups this time. That’s because no one Celtic can match up with Kobe – period. But let’s consider your question anyway…
    Bynum cancels out Perkins.
    Gasol and KG should pretty much be a wash also.
    Pierce will probably have the edge over Artest, scoring-wise, but he won’t dominate like he did over Vlad Rad and Luke Walton.
    Kobe is quick and long enough to slow Rondo down, but not vice-versa. Give Kobe the edge over Rondo.
    That leaves Ray vs Fish. Ray will score against Fish, but not from the post. Fish fights through screens all day – that’s what he does. Is this matchup your entire basis for victory?
    Bear in mind – the Celtics will be throwing 2 and 3 defenders at Kobe. Fish will be wide open and he has shown he can hit his open jumpers – enough to close the offensive gap between Ray.
    If Fish slows down or gets into foul trouble, Sasha at 6’7″ is tall and quick enough – and has gotten under Ray’s skin in the past with his pesky defense.
    Overall – I give the edge to the Lakers over the Celtics because there isn’t anybody on the Celtics that the Lakers will need to double team, while the Celtics will have to throw 2 and 3 players at Kobe.
    That will give the Lakers opportunities for offensive rebounds [Bynum, Lamar, Pau, Artest – as we have seen throughout the playoffs], or otherwise seams in the defense for these tall & skilled players to exploit. In the end, the addition of Artest and Bynum’s presence will make all the difference – despite the Ray vs Fish matchup.
    Lakers in 5.

  15. Peace_Talk - Jun 2, 2010 at 7:12 AM

    ’nuff of yer non sense talking and matchings! Just watch the game and see the Greens get that 4 W’s right in front of your silly face!

  16. geo59 - Jun 2, 2010 at 10:41 AM

    Why is Pierce talking about Artest’s antics? Pierce gets more bogus calls from the officials than anyone in the league. I cringe every time I see him get a defensive foul called with his same-ole pump fake and dive into the defensive man. Most of the time when he makes this move, and it’s basically his only move, he’s guilty of an offensive foul. But the official calls it the other way because NBA officials have become knee-jerk, robotic incompetents. They really are not up to speed with today’s game. And Pierce uses his phony move, along with a lot of flopping antics to take full advantage of poor officiating. Antics is really not a word that Pierce should be using.

  17. chris - Jun 2, 2010 at 12:40 PM

    To Shadow from Chris
    Obviously if Kobe is on Rondo then the switch would be Fisher on Ray if your talking about the starters. Fisher is as good as anyone fighting through screens and could chase Allen around with ease. Obviously he gives up some height but the Lakers could live with that and send a second defender to help if needed be it Kobe or Artest. The more important issue is Kobe on Rondo disrupting the flow of the offense, getting them out of rhythm, and creating turnovers.

  18. JD - Jun 3, 2010 at 11:55 AM

    Here’s my proposed solution to the “Pierce problem”: The next time Pierce falls on the ground holding his knee, one of the Lakers players should go and check to see if it’s real or not.

  19. Jimmy V - Jun 3, 2010 at 3:30 PM

    Celtics in 7.. Format of the playoffs, extra TV timeouts, 3 strait games in their own city favor the Older Celtics who need the rest. Lakers have Kobe who is the best in the NBA today, but they had Kobe in 2008 and still lost the series. All the arguements I see are.. “Kobe wants 5 rings” “Kobe won’t let the Lakers Fail” etc.. As good as Kobe is he is still only 1 player. So are we to believe because Kobe wants it, its like an automatic? Lakers have best player in the series, as did all the teams the Celtics played.. Wade, King James, & Superman and they are all playing golf. On to matchups.. Artest / Pierce.. Pierce use to abuse Artest when he played for the Pacers.. Now granted he has more help then he did in INDY, but I think Pierce is a little too quick for Ron who by the way has been anything but consistant this year for the Lakers. If that does happen, then you may see Kobe move over to Pierce. Rondo does not look like he will be 100% though he is as tough as they come, doesnt back down, and will drive the hole where he always gets it to his bigs.. Lakers should to a crack at him when he gets in there.. That would serve them well. KG – Gasol is a wash.. Gasol is a little quicker now but KG will be in his face questioning his manhood. We all know how the European players can get soft.. There was no Bynum last time, and there is maybe 1/2 a Bynum now.. I dont see him a big factor.. If he was 100% .. Lakers win this series hands down. But the dude cannot even jump his knee is soo filled with fluid. Bench Edge Celtics.. Big Baby, Wallace, Tony Allen, Lil Nate, Over Odom, Farmer,sasha, brown. Simply because they play better defence (minus lil-Nate of course) LOL
    Good series .. Lets DO IT!

  20. K Dog - Jun 4, 2010 at 11:14 PM

    Well, guess you got that one wrong. Lakes will score more than 100 in every win and will party in Boston buddy. Watch…..

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