The Orlando Magic, facing a 2-0 deficit against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, have their backs against the wall. Something has to change if they're going to claw their way back into this series, and it seems like everyone has an opinion on what that might be. Khandor says Ryan Anderson and Brandon Bass need some burn, while J.J. Redick and Matt Barnes should yield minutes to Mickael Pietrus. John Hollinger believes the bench has to improve its play. Coach Stan Van Gundy wants to get Rashard Lewis more involved.
A more likely adjustment? Switching Barnes to cover Celtics star Paul Pierce. Before the series, Barnes said he would cover Ray Allen while Vince Carter would take Pierce, which my analysis suggested would be a solid move. However, Pierce is having his way in this series. He's averaging 25 points per game on 75.2% True Shooting, with 7 boards and 5 assists for good measure. As Brian Schmitz and Joshua Robbins note in this news roundup, Pierce has done his best work at the start of games, helping Boston take command early. And make no mistake: it is imposing its will on the series, more than the 7-point differential through 2 games might indicate.
So, as John Denton reports, Barnes wants the challenge of stopping Pierce.
``I’ve studied his game a lot and played against him in the summertime in L.A. I’m pretty familiar with his game,’’ Barnes said. ``I don’t go for a lot of the stuff that he tries to do, but he still makes tough shots. He’s a tough player. I think that I can slow him down. You don’t really stop anybody; you just want to slow him down.’’
Denton terms the prospect of Barnes guarding Pierce in Game 3 a "likelihood," and I suppose it's a decent idea, insofar as Orlando, again, needs to change something. But Orlando is far better off with Barnes off the court, and Redick on it, which Van Gundy himself acknowledged, and which complicates the Barnes/Pierce angle.
So I'm turning the subject over to you. Vote in the poll and discuss in the comments. And does anyone else think it's odd that we haven't heard mention of Pietrus in the Pierce discussion? I regard him as superior to Barnes defensively, and though he hasn't contributed much on either end of the floor in this series, his historical record of solid defense is too great for me to overlook entirely.