Barnes Plans to Put Brakes on Pierce
It didn't work.
Matt Barnes will take his turn next. And he won't be very subtle, either.
Looking at an 0-2 deficit, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy is expected to unleash Barnes and his edgy, defensive mentality on Pierce Saturday night in Game 3, hoping to claw back into the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals.
"I'd love to guard Pierce. I think I can slow him down,'' Barnes said Thursday after a two-hour practice. "I've studied his game. I've played against him in the summers. I don't go for a lot of stuff he tries to do. This is the kind of thing I'm about.''
Pierce scored 22 points in Game 1. He scored 28 points in Game 2, hitting big shot after big shot in both victories. In Game 2, though, the difference was that he scored 22 of his points in the first half -- before Barnes made the switch to guard him.
"I thought I did a pretty good job on him. He's really rolling now, so we need to slow him down somehow,'' Barnes said. "That's my job, to slow down their best player. I've been doing it all year. It's what I do.''
Barnes, who was bothered with a sore back in Game 1, started the series on Ray Allen because the Magic felt he was better equipped to chase him through the numerous picks that the Celtics set for him. But it left Vince Carter to guard Pierce, and that just hasn't worked well for Orlando. It's one of the reasons they are staring at a surprising deficit after rolling easily through the first two rounds of the playoffs.
"The only thing on our minds now is winning on Saturday,'' Barnes said. "Our backs are against the wall. We know what's at stake, but we're locked in and ready for the challenge.''
Barnes, who was signed this summer as a free agent to add toughness to an already good team, has embraced his role, guarding everyone from Kobe Bryant to Dwyane Wade to Joe Johnson to Pierce in the regular season.
Although Pierce struggled to score against Barnes in the second half -- hitting only 1-of-4 shots -- Pierce got the best of him on one play in the third quarter, which Barnes was quick to concede Thursday.
"My third foul, in the third quarter when I tried to beat him off a screen, he just fell down, like I threw him down. It was a flop,'' Barnes said. "It was 100 percent flop, and that's how some guys like to play. If the refs call it, it's effective.''
Barnes smiled when asked about the message that came across Pierce's Twitter account after Game 2 -- Anyone have a broom – that was later attributed to a hacker. Barnes himself was involved in a Twitter trash-talking exchange earlier this season with Lamar Odom of the Lakers.
"I don't care what Pierce says. He can talk smack because they've been backing it up. We haven't done anything to stop him,'' Barnes said. "Maybe that can change this series.''