When Paul Pierce drained the second of back to back three pointers with 2:30 to go in the first quarter yesterday, my buddy in the seat next to me at the Garden turned and said “I think he’s going to have a good night.” As you’ve probably heard by now, Pierce became just the 2nd player in Celtics history over the age of 35 to score 40 points in a game (Larry Bird did it in a double overtime contest in 1992). But, Pierce’s achievement goes way beyond just that.
Since Bird’s 49 point effort 20 years ago, just 5 other players 35 or older have scored at least 40 points in an NBA game: Michael Jordan, Clyde Drexler, Karl Malone, Reggie Miller, and Shaquille O’Neal. That’s it. Not a bad list for Pierce to join.
If that’s not impressive enough, Pierce scored his 40 points while taking just 16 shots (13-16 FG, 8-8 FT, 6-7 3PT). In the last 3 seasons there have been 85 forty point games in the NBA. Pierce’s is the only one with 16 or fewer field goal attempts. The last player to put up 40 with such efficiency was Amare Stoudemire in March of 2010. In the past 10+ years there have only been 5 forty point games where the player took 16 or fewer shots, and since 1985 (as far back as basketball-reference.com tracks) it has happened a total of just 13 times. Factoring in Pierce’s age makes the accomplishment even more significant, none of the other 12 players were older than 30.
Is it possible Pierce is the oldest player in NBA history to score 40 on so few field goal attempts? I don’t have the research power to figure that out. If you’re reading this and you happen to work for Espn or Elias (or The Wall Street Journal?), please give me a hand.
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