Just how valuable is Mickael Pietrus?

On the surface, it appeared Mickael Pietrus had a pretty quiet Game 2. 23 minutes, two points and six fouls — no wonder JJ Redick played so much, right? Not quite. Pietrus’ defensive effort is something that won’t show up on any stat line or box score. Despite foul trouble throughout, Pietrus furiously denied Kobe Bryant the ball as much as possible and used his length to keep Bryant from garnering many good looks. Pietrus fouling out with 3:08 left in the fourth quarter has been the least talked about storyline of Game 2. Surely Orlando’s best defender would’ve made a difference in the last few minutes and overtime, when every possession felt like it was the most important one. In the Lakers’ 14 possessions after Pietrus’ sixth foul, Bryant scored eight points and touched the ball on almost every possession. There’s no doubt Pietrus would’ve annoyed Bryant more than Hedo Turkoglu did (Turk’s last-second, come from behind block aside). Kobe Bryant, defensive breakdown With Pietrus defending: 41 possessions, 27 touches, 4 field-goal attempts With others defending: 51 possessions, 49 touches, 13 field-goal attempts Credit: ESPN Stats and Info Sunday night’s showing illustrates a well-documented emergence of Pietrus this postseason. It’s no secret he’s been the team’s best defensive player, but it’s on the offensive end that Pietrus is really blossoming. He’s shooting 40 percent from 3-point range, and check out his inside shooting percentage: 76.5 percent. That’s better than LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony. Forget the overrated mid-range game — Pietrus is getting it done on the outside and the inside. And that’s a big reason he has a .593 effective field-goal percentage, behind only Marcin Gortat, Howard and Trevor Ariza (who has been ridiculously efficient on offense) of guys in the NBA Finals. Orlando’s two most productive five-man units feature Pietrus, which is partly due to MP coming off the bench and going against the second units early on. But he’s also playing heavy minutes in the fourth quarter while guarding the opposing team’s best perimeter defender. And by the way, if you’re afraid of Turkoglu bolting for free agency next month, you might like this: Most productive five-man units, 2009 playoffs Alston-Lee-Pietrus-Lewis-Howard: +33 Johnson-Pietrus-Turkoglu-Lewis-Gortat: +32 Alston-Redick-Turkoglu-Lewis-Gortat: +18 Alston-Redick-Pietrus-Lewis-Howard: +17 Alston-Pietrus-Turkoglu-Lewis-Howard: +16

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily