Who are KG and Pierce (Part 1)? Info you won't find on ESPN on clutch performance

Today Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were officially introduced as new Nets. They are obviously extremely well-known players that everyone has had some experience watching through the years. ESPN and every other sports outlet has put a lot of info out there about them and how they might fit with the Nets. Nets Income has written several articles on them, including this one from Tuesday about how much they might still have in the tank.

That's where I come in. Because while NI could break down the Nets in ways I couldn't even begin to right now, I can confidently say that there isn't a Nets fan in the world that has spent as much time and energy breaking down KG's and Pierce's games in recent years as I have. I've written countless words on these new Nets, and in many instances I try to do analysis that you wouldn't just find in surface searches of ESPN or basketball-reference. Obviously I can't post every word I've ever written on the two here, but I thought that I might highlight a few posts from the last couple of years to give you a more specific idea about what the Nets have just inherited. (ETA: This got pretty long, so I'm separating it into two parts)

Ready? OK, let's begin.

Part 1: Crunchtime: Ice Water in Veins

Last October I wrote a new post (actually updated a previous post) on how the Celtics performed during the "Big 3 era" in ultra-clutch situations, which I defined as the last 30 seconds of a one-possession game in which the team with the ball could either tie or take the lead. Many often focus only on scoring when they talk about clutch play, but there is a lot more to it than that. "Clutch" can be about making the last shot...but it can also be about breaking down the defense and creating the scoring play for a teammate, or about making the free throws that seal a game with all eyes on you. or about making the huge defensive stop at the crucial moment. These are all things that I tried to incorporate into the article linked above. Let's look at some of the highlights:

Here is the chart for when all four of Pierce, Garnett, Allen and Rondo were available. The Celtics were 57 - 32 (64% win %) in close games in the regular season, and 16 - 6 (73% win %) in the postseason in these games.

FGM FGA FG% Ast-ed FTM FTA FT% 3s M 3s A G W Ast TOs Stl/blk
Garnett 10
18 21
85.7 0 1 7
Pierce 13
38 41
92.7 3
4 11
Allen 13 30
88.0 10
4 1
Rondo 2 12
22.2 1 6
60.0 0 2 0 5

Here are some of the things that jump out at me:

  • The Celtics as a team are excellent in these extremely close games. I don't know what the league average is, but a winning percentage in the 65% range has to be among the league leaders..
  • When all of the Big 4 were available the roles were pretty well defined:
  • The Celtics had 3 big-volume scorers at game-winning time: Pierce, Allen and Garnett all took a roughly similar number of shots and all 3 made those shots at well-above league average clip of 29%. All three also hit their super-clutch free throws extremely well, all over 85% from the line.
  • Ray (7 made) and KG (7 made) led the Celtics in game-winning shots, with Pierce next at 4 made shots.
  • Pierce by-far led the team in assists in this game-winning/game-sealing time with 11. Rondo was next with 5, while KG and Ray were almost always finishers.
  • KG led the team in game-winning defensive plays (blocks and steals). Pierce also made quite a few of those plays late on defense.

What does this tell us about Pierce and KG, and how they fit into the Nets in clutch situations? Well, it tells us that both Pierce and Garnett are adept at taking and making huge shots in big situations, and that both are nails from the line with the pressure turned all the way up. It also tells us that Pierce is a great player to run your crunchtime offense through, because he can create the shot for himself or for others, and can also knock down the FTs when fouled intentionally. It also shows us that Pierce and Garnett also play huge clutch defense, with a combined 14 steals or blocks in these situations. Finally, it shows us that Garnett and Pierce know how to fit their late-game experience into a team concept as they won at nearly a 70% clip with at least 4 capable offensive players out there late. This is the situation they will be in again in Brooklyn, so the fact that they can both operate so well in this situation speaks extremely well for the potential of the Nets' new crunchtime line-up.

(I'll continue this in part 2, about the Nets' new defensive anchor)

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