As Mickael Pietrus drained his second consecutive backbreaking triple in the fourth quarter of the Orlando Magic's series-clinching 99-90 win over the Charlotte Bobcats last night, I shook my head in mild amusement. Pietrus has drilled plenty of three-pointers in his 28-game Magic postseason career, and often at opportune times, as when he made one over Charlotte's Gerald Wallace in Game 1 which gave the Magic an 8-point lead with 1:24 to go. He just seems to be better when the games mean more, which is why I investigated further.
The Magic signed Pietrus in the summer of 2008 for defense and, to a lesser extent, three-point shooting. He's delivered on both promises since then, but moreso in the playoffs; the regular season is a warmup to him, apparently. Here's how his shooting breaks down in the regular season and the playoffs during his Magic career, with the stats of an average NBA swingman (culled from Hoopdata) included for comparison:
For whatever reason, Pietrus really dials himself in after the 82nd game. Consider that, in terms of True Shooting, the best evaluation of shooting efficiency, Pietrus' 63.1% mark in the last two postseasons combined exceeds any other NBA swingman's regular-season marks in each of the last two seasons. Boston Celtics All-Star Ray Allen came the closest to matching Pietrus, with a 62.4% clip last season. Now, Allen scores more than Pietrus because he's a bigger part of Boston's offense. The takeaway is that, in the postseason, Pietrus is slightly more efficient than one of the game's purest shooters has been, despite his own goofy, fading away release off his back foot, while bringing his hands back to his chest.
Often, certain talking points get bandied about and catch on without anyone bothering to really see if they're true. Perhaps due to his 9 straight double-figure scoring games off the bench in the Magic's NBA Finals run last season, the idea that Pietrus steps it up in the playoffs has indeed caught on; the difference here is that there's no way to dispute that.