Celtics' Pierce a challenge for Sixers' Iguodala

The Sixers' Andre Iguodala battling Paul Pierce in Game 4. "He is one of the best Celtics that ever played, so you definitely have your hands full with him," Iguodala said of the Celtics star.
The Sixers' Andre Iguodala battling Paul Pierce in Game 4. "He is one of the best Celtics that ever played, so you definitely have your hands full with him," Iguodala said of the Celtics star. (      STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer)
Posted: May 26, 2012

Of all the players that 76ers forward Andre Iguodala has to guard, few offer more of a physical challenge as Boston's Paul Pierce.

With the deciding Game 7 of the teams' Eastern Conference semifinal series being staged Saturday night at Boston's TD Garden, the Sixers will likely need to put the clamps on Pierce to advance to the conference final against the Miami Heat.

Easier said than done against a player who has appeared in 122 postseason games for the Celtics, is a 10-time all-star and owns one NBA Finals MVP.

Never the quickest player and even slower after suffering a sprained MCL in the first round against Atlanta, Pierce has still found a way to score in this series, and frequently it has come at the foul line.

"He is the kind of guy who can hit five field goals and end with 24 points," Doug Collins said about Pierce following Friday's practice at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Collins knows his stats. In the Sixers' 82-75 Game 6 win, Pierce scored 24 points on five field goals. He also hit all 13 foul shots.

During the Celtics' 107-91 win in Game 3, Pierce made just six field goals, but scored 24 points, with 11 coming at the foul line.

"It's a good matchup," Iguodala said on Friday about his battle with Pierce. "He's a multiple all-star, is going to be in the Hall of Fame and is one of the best Celtics that ever played so you definitely have your hands full with him."

With his physical style of play, Pierce is more likely to barrel over a defender like Iguodala than blow by him.

"It's a physical game," Iguodala said matter-of-factly.

He mentioned that not just Pierce, but the entire Celtics team is physical.

While Pierce has struggled from the field in this series, shooting 39.7 percent, he has made up for it at the foul line. In the six games, he has converted 47 of 50 free throws (94 percent) and is averaging 18.2 points per game.

"We would like to be able to limit his efficiency a little bit and he is doing a good job of getting to the foul line and he's a great free-throw shooter," Collins said of Pierce.

Free throws, or the lack of successful ones, are the biggest discrepancy between Iguodala and Pierce this series. Iguodala is shooting 13 for 29 from the foul line (44.8 percent).

Besides the foul shooting, Iguodala has filled out the stat sheet as he usually does. Against Boston, he's averaging 13.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists and 1.33 steals. He is also shooting 11 for 21 (52.4 percent) from three-point range. Yet his greatest contribution is on the defensive end against one of the NBA's top clutch scorers.

"You have to make Paul work hard all the time and Dre does that," Collins said. "What he does for our team is one of those things a coach watches on tape and sometimes the stat sheet won't show the impact on the game and Dre always has a big impact on the game."

Before the Sixers' first-round win over the Chicago Bulls, Iguodala had never been part of a team that won a playoff series. The Sixers had lost in the first round four previous times during his career, which is completing its eighth season.

Now that he has won a series, Iguodala will be playing in his first Game 7.

"I am just ready to go experience this for the first time and it should be fun," Iguodala said.

It also should be loud if Game 5 in Boston is any indication.

"You expect it [to be loud] and it kind of becomes second nature," Iguodala said. "This is our fourth game there and we expect to get a hostile crowd, and we have seen this already."

Contact Marc Narducci at 856,779-3225, mnarducci@phillynews.com or follow @sjnard on Twitter.


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