As we mentioned on Tuesday in SB Nation's NBA Power Rankings, the story to watch with the Celtics is Paul Pierce's health. He's been nowhere near himself this year, and the Celtics have struggled because of it. Was Pierce just getting old, or is it true that we was simply hurt then and is now healthy?
If last night's game is any indication, the latter might be closest to the truth. Pierce put on what SB Nation's CelticsBlog dubbed a "vintage performance" last night against the Nuggets, dropping 27 points on just 16 shots in a blowout win. It looked a lot like a performance that were common in the 2008 playoffs, when Pierce led his team to the title. Sure, the Nuggets are struggling as they cope with the potential loss of head coach George Karl, but they're still one of the league's best teams, so clearly Pierce hit a gear he didn't have earlier in the season.
In short, as CelticsBlog writes, it was a performance that made Celtics fans remember the player Pierce once was.
But boy, did last night bring me back. It wasn't just the fact that he went toe-to-toe with Carmelo Anthony, and (in my eyes won the matchup) scored 27 points. It's how he did it. And it's always been about how he does it. Between getting out on the fast break and turning Rondo's assists into easy buckets, the put-the-shoulder-down relentless drives to the hoop - often culminating in a foul, a difficult layup and a foul, or a difficult layup and a lack of a call - and the myriad of step-back jumpers that are virtually unguardable, Pierce's game has been captivating to watch.
What's left unspoken in the post is that the Celtics need more of these "vintage performances" to win in the playoffs. It's probably unspoken because it's really damn obvious. As Pierce goes, so do the Celtics.