Yesterday was a day for the ages in New England sports history. A magical comeback by Tom Brady and the Patriots down in Houston was still hours away, but the Celtics got the day off to quite a start as they honored one of the most beloved players in the history of Boston sports. Paul Pierce hadn't played in over a month. Not because of any sort of injury, but as he nears the end of his final season Doc Rivers has decided those minutes Pierce could be getting are better served elsewhere on the Clippers roster.
Although yesterday Doc gave Pierce the opportunity to get on his old home-court for one last time, even throwing him into the starting lineup for what will undoubtedly be his final NBA start. When it was time to introduce the Clippers starters, we got one last "The Truth" Paaaaauuuuul Piieeeeerce intro from Eddie Palladino:
The Truth. pic.twitter.com/zd7gEHHJtA— NBA (@NBA) February 5, 2017
Pierce made his way to center court before the opening tip and gave us this iconic image:
☘️3️⃣4️⃣☘️ pic.twitter.com/3uvqXRirNr— NBA (@NBA) February 5, 2017
Pierce played the opening five minutes of the game before Doc subbed him out at the first timeout. The Celtics then honored Pierce during a subsequent break in play with this tribute video, which I'm fairly certain is the same or very similar to the one they played when they welcomed Pierce and Kevin Garnett back in their first return after leaving for Brooklyn:
It got a little dusty in the Garden during that video. Both benches stood and applauded the former Celtics captain as he waved to the crowd. He had a hard time controlling his emotions. Via Marc D'Amico of Celtics.com:
“Just the showering of love in here, man,” he said of being moved to tears in the middle of the game. “I don’t get a showering of love in every arena like Kobe did in his farewell tour, so this was like my last goodbye, not only for the Celtics, but also for the NBA.”
Brad Stevens thought the tribute was great for the young Celtics players to see:
“It’s special for them to see it,” Stevens said of his players soaking the moment in. “It’s special for them… he’s one of the icons of Boston sports, and that’s a special group of people.”
“I was actually sitting next to Jaylen and saying, ‘This is unique. This isn’t the way it is everywhere.’”
Although Pierce got the start, he spent the rest of the afternoon cheering on his teammates on the Clipper bench. "WE WANT PAUL" reigned down from the Garden crowd throughout most of the day, and as game neared it's final seconds with the Celtics comfortably ahead on the scoreboard Doc sent Pierce to the scorers table one last time - much to the delight of the crowd. Then this happened:
Paul Pierce goes out with a bang! pic.twitter.com/d4EInbgb95— Boston Celtics (@celtics) February 5, 2017
You couldn't write that scene any better than that, just absolutely incredible. Paul Pierce hit the final shot of a Celtics win in his last game at the TD Garden. The crowd erupted like he hit a game-winner in the NBA Finals, it was unbelievable.
Pierce and Isaiah Thomas have become friends, and the passing of the torch from the old Celtic legend to their newest star was symbolic as Thomas was "guarding" Paul on that final shot. Apparently IT told Pierce to take that final shot, Paul joked after the game he didn't need an invitation:
“He didn’t have to tell me to shoot that one,” Pierce joked of Isaiah Thomas, whose defense against Pierce on the play was reminiscent of an All-Star game. “That one was going up regardless.
Photo Credit - Brian Babineau/ Celtics.com/GETTY Images
Follow Mark on Twitter: @MarkAL401 Mark Allison 2/06/2017 05:16:00 PM Tweet Edit