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Friday, February 3, 2012
Stats & Info: Paul Pierce's turnaround

By Ernest Tolden, ESPN Stats & Info

A few weeks ago, the Boston Celtics were being looked at as a team that was old, slow and without hope for the postseason. President of basketball operations Danny Ainge even talked about the possibility of breaking up the Big Three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.

On Jan. 16, Boston lost its season-high fifth consecutive game, dropping to 4-8 on the season. Since then, they’ve won seven of their past nine games.

A large part of the Celtics’ turnaround has been the emergence of Pierce. In his past seven games, Pierce is averaging 22.9 points after averaging just 14.6 points in his first 11 games.

Pierce has improved his half-court play, averaging 19.9 points in his past seven games. Not only is he scoring more in half-court plays, but he’s been more efficient. Pierce is scoring at a rate of 0.99 points per play and shooting 49 percent from the field, all up from his first 11 games this season.

The Truth has also gone back to his specialty in the one-on-one game. Pierce has found his rhythm in isolation plays, scoring more than 5 points per play in that offense over the past seven games, including a season-high 10 isolation points in his season-high 34-point effort against the Wizards on Jan. 22.

Pierce has also assumed the ball-handling duties since Rajon Rondo has been sidelined the past eight games due to a wrist injury. The Celtics’ captain is averaging 7.7 assists in his past seven games, including recording a season-high 10 assists twice during that span.

A large part of Pierce’s increase in assists is his willingness to pass. In isolation plays in his first 11 games, Pierce passed the ball only 7.1 percent of the time. Since then, he’s passing the ball out of isolation 19.8 percent of the time to set up his teammates.

The Celtics’ offense has recently run through Pierce as he leads the team in assists percentage since Rondo’s injury – the percentage of field goals assisted by a player while he’s on the court. Pierce has recorded an assist percentage of 39.2 percent in the past eight games, by far the highest on the team.