HH Tournament: (1) Larry Bird vs (3) Paul Pierce

Feb 9, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers owner Herb Simon and team president Larry Bird (right) watch the game against the San Antonio Spurs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 9, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers owner Herb Simon and team president Larry Bird (right) watch the game against the San Antonio Spurs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports /

The winner of Larry Bird and Paul Pierce moves onto the championship

In the first Final Four matchup, Bill Russell had a tough matchup against Kevin McHale, but he easily moved on to the championship. He’s now in the championship matchup, awaiting his competitor. The second Final Four matchup is between the two best small forwards in Boston Celtics history, Larry Bird and Paul Pierce.

The winner takes on Bill Russell in the championship matchup starting on Wednesday, September 14. The poll will last for a full 48 hours (2 days) to decide who the greatest player in Boston Celtics history is.

Don’t forget that this is based solely off their playing careers with the Boston Celtics. Any coaching or front office experience shouldn’t be taken into account, neither should their collegiate careers or any other NBA teams they may have played for.

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Larry Bird owned one of the most complete arsenals in NBA history. There were few flaws in his game, but Paul Pierce also owned a very well-rounded game during his time with the Celtics. Both averaged more than 20 points per game over their careers, as well as being fierce defenders.

In an era where threes weren’t as relied on, the most threes per game Bird attempted was 3.1. It makes his career 24.3 points per game even more impressive. Not to mention scoring 28.7 points per contest during the 1984-85 season while only shooting 1.6 threes per game. Bird’s three-point stroke was as good as they came, however he played in a different era and found other ways to score.

Pierce’s 21.8 points per night with the Celtics is a little lower than Bird’s average, yet Pierce was one of the best offensive small forwards in the NBA during his prime. He shot an impressive 40.4 percent from deep during his fourth season, while also averaging at least 20 points in eight of nine seasons prior to the formation of the Big Three.

Pierce mostly scored using his mid-range game, but he still has the most threes made in Celtics history. Bird may have been the better pure shooter, however Pierce has the numbers to back him up.

Defensively, both averaged more than a steal per contest in their respective careers. Bird made three All-Defensive Teams, as well, however both were able to sustain success on the defensive end for over 10 years with the Celtics. Usually defense is what separates players, but both forced turnovers and were reliable defensive wings throughout their entire careers.

Despite Bird holding a slight edge in scoring and on defense, it’s not as big of a gap as some may have suspected. Where Bird separates himself from other small forwards is on the glass and as a passer.

You can make the argument that LeBron James is the best passing small forward of all-time. It’s extremely tough to give that honor to anyone other than Larry Bird, though. He was a wizard with the ball, making finesse passes through defense like no one else. It led to him dishing out 6.3 assists per game and averaging at least six assists in each of his final eight seasons.

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Pierce wasn’t a selfish player, but the Celtics relied on him as a scorer more often than Bird. Early in Pierce’s career, the Celtics didn’t have a lot of options on offense other than him. It led to Pierce attempting 20.2 shots per game in 2002-03, however he did start to rack up a decent amount of assists as his game matured. During his prime, he recorded at least 4.5 assist per game in six consecutive seasons.

As previously mentioned, unlike most small forwards, Bird was a beast on the glass. He finished his career averaging exactly 10 boards per night, and averaged a double-double in each of his first six seasons. In seasons he played in at least 70 games, he never failed to grab at least nine rebounds per game. That type of production is insane from a small forward, especially with Robert Parish and Kevin McHale in the front court.

Pierce did grab six rebounds per game over 15 seasons with the Celtics. He was a solid rebounder, averaging at least 6.5 boards in five straight seasons at one point. With that being said, Pierce never stood out as an elite rebounder where he would put up center-like numbers. Pierce was only 6-7, but very few small forwards could average a double-double with rebounds, let alone over a 13-year career like Bird did.

Larry Bird and Paul Pierce are easily the two best small forwards in Celtics history. Both are fan favorites to this day, and Pierce will get his number retired once he calls it quits. Pierce was a really good all-around player during his career, but there might not be a better all-around player in NBA history than Larry Bird.

Don’t forget to vote on Twitter @HoudiniCeltics! The poll is up for 20 hours. Comments on here don’t count as votes, only the poll on Twitter will be looked at to determine who goes on to the Final Four.

Next: Jae Crowder is the Most Important Celtic

Also, look at tomorrow’s match-up to see the results from today’s showdown.