Watching this second-round playoff series between the Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers — and more specifically, watching the struggles of C's captain Paul Pierce to find his shot against LeBron James and the Cavs — is a true test of optimism versus pessimism.
If your glass is half-empty, your viewpoint is clear. The Celtics are tied 2-2, and it's now a best-of-three series. And it's next to impossible to win that best-of-three when your best offensive player has yet to produce even a 15-point game or a 50 percent shooting night.
If your glass is half-full? Turn that one over to Rajon Rondo, who addressed the media at the team's practice facility in Waltham, Mass., on Monday afternoon.
"We're tied 2-2 in this series and Paul hasn't had his best game yet," Rondo said. "So I'm sure he'll come through, whether LeBron's guarding him or not."
Pierce's numbers — and there's a big chance that LeBron's intense stifling defense has a lot to do with it — have been bad in this series. He's put forth point totals of 13, 14, 11 and nine in the Celtics' first four games. He's shot a total of 16-for-50, or 32 percent. He's been so maddeningly inefficient that questions are popping up about whether he's physically OK.
"There's nothing wrong with me," Pierce insisted Monday. "The key for me is just being focused, being ready, giving my team what it needs to win. There's nothing wrong with me."
"Paul's fine," coach Doc Rivers confirmed. "You know, obviously we want more out of him. But we're getting a lot out of him, and I think unfortunately for Paul, he's an offensive player and that's all everyone sees in him. But he has a defensive role in this series, and they're going to look at his offensive numbers."
What many have overlooked is that Pierce is playing nearly 35 minutes a game in this series, and he's spending a huge chunk of it guarding LeBron, the reigning two-time MVP in this league.
LeBron's point totals in the Cavs' two wins have been 35 and 38. In the Celtics' two, he's tapered off at 24 and 22.
Obviously, Pierce's defense is a huge difference-maker in this series, but at the moment, that's not what's getting press.
"That's the bad part of being Paul Pierce, really," Rivers said. "If it was Tony Allen, people would be happy. He's doing a great job defensively. But it's Paul, and so they want more."
But then he added: "And we're going to get more out of Paul. I believe that."
If Doc's right, the Celtics have a good chance in this best-of-three series.