BOSTON — Staring down Kobe Bryant in the NBA Finals or having the weight of a region an iconic franchise on his shoulders.
Paul Pierce said all that and anything else you can think of in his Hall of Fame career pales to the emotions he felt last night in his return to the TD Garden.
“This was the toughest game I ever had to play,” said the 16-year veteran after the Nets beat the Celtics 85-79 in a Pierce-Kevin Garnett return to Boston lovefest. “Tougher than any championship game or any Game 7. ... You thought about the times, the friendships, the relationships. You get showered with love the whole game. You look up and see so many Kevin jerseys, so many my jerseys, posters and it’s every second.”
Garnett concurred: “This is not even close. It’s not even close.”
Garnett, like a wild-eyed, overgrown statesman, handled himself flawlessly on the parquet and in the post-game media session.
“This was over the top. ... What comes to mind is unbelievable,” said Garnett, who teamed with Pierce, Doc Rivers, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo to revive a franchise on life support. “I didn’t expect anything like that. ... I couldn’t put it into words. Paul and I were joking before the game who was going to tear up. I had lumps in my throat.”
They may be in Brooklyn but these were the “New Jersey” Nets. Pierce and KG just don’t look right in Brooklyn Black. But last night was all about KG’s six years in Boston and Pierce’s 15 years.
Hollywood slick videos, oversized Jumbotron scoreboards, countless memories and fans starved for nostalgia.
It’s the perfect recipe for sports reunions. And the Celtics did it right.
The packed house of 18,624 began early with Pierce. Prior to the pre-game introduction the fans chimed in sing-song fashion: “Pauuuuuul Pieeeeerce” ... clap, clap. ... “Pauuuuul Pieeeerce” clap, clap.