A Garden Party Rings in Boston

By Stephen Alford
Updated: October 29, 2008

BOSTON — With the 2008-09 NBA season getting underway Tuesday night at the TD Banknorth Garden, the Boston Celtics are poised to repeat as NBA champions, a feat it has not accomplished almost 40 years.

As a host of family and friends stood in attendance, Celtics captain Paul Pierce could not contain his emotions when he accepted the NBA championship trophy from former Celtic and Hall of Famer John Havlicek.

Tears streamed down the face of the Truth as he received his championship ring from Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck and NBA commissioner David Stern, and continued when he led the rest of the Boston Celtics in hoisting Banner No. 17 “2008 World Champions” to the rafters of the Garden.

But once the opening tip was underway, Pierce’s tears dried and he poured his emotions into the game, as Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers could not contain the Truth ‘s 27 points, which led the Boston Celtics to a 90-85 victory on the opening-night of the NBA.

“It brought back so many memories from when I was a kid,” told the Truth. “Being able to have my family and closest friends there was just a great night to be able to share that with them.”

“Not only the fans and the organization but those are the people that really matter to me the most. They saw it from day one, when I first picked up a basketball. They’ve supported me.”

“It’s moments like these that you cherish,” Pierce continued. “Whenever you can raise that banner and grab that ring, and be there in front of the people closest to you, it’s very emotional. I’m just glad I pulled together in time so we could come out and play the game.”

And after 10 years of enduring the highs and lows with the Boston Celtics, there is no doubt Pierce will cherish his championship ring, a quarter-pound bling of white gold with a shamrock made of emeralds that sits on top of 92 diamonds.

Banner No. 17 is on one side of the ring along with the Celtics logo and their 2007-08 motto “Ubuntu”. Each player has their name and number engraved on the other side of the ring. Celtic-icon Red Aurebach’s signature is engraved on the inside.

The 18,624 witnesses roared with each pull of the rope as Celtics players took turns raising Banner No. 17 to the rafters before it finally settled in between the 1986 Banner and the retired numbers.

Now that the ceremony is out of the way, the Celtics are looking forward to defending their crown. “I told them we deserve this night, we worked for this night,” explained Celtics coach Doc Rivers after the game.

“We’ve earned this night, and only one team in the world can have this night – and it’s us. And we deserve it. But now I’m glad that we can concentrate on basketball.”

The Cavaliers, who took the Celtics to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals last year before being eliminated, chose to return to their locker room rather than watch the ceremony.

Cleveland seemed to come out with something to prove as they shot 53% from the field and jumped out to a 28-22 advantage at the end of the first quarter, and a 50-43 lead at halftime.

Two thirds of the Big Three were most likely feeling the effects of the emotional drain from the half hour ceremony. Kevin Garnett, who badly missed his first shot attempt of the season, ended the half 3-for-9 from the field, and Ray Allen struggled even more, shooting 1-for-6 and missing both of his attempts from beyond the arc in the first half.

If it weren’t for Pierce’s 14 halftime points (6-for-10 from the field), the Cavaliers may have spoiled the ceremony by escaping Boston with a victory. But a Paul Pierce three-pointer with 2:15 remaining in the third quarter ended a Celtics scoring drought that lasted almost three minutes, and pulled Boston to within one-point of the Cavs (62-63).

Pierce then hit his 25th point of the game when he converted a 19-footer, giving the Green a lead it never relinquished. The Celtics ended the third frame with a 67-63 advantage as the captain led the team with 11 third quarter points.

With the departure of James Posey to New Orleans, the Celtics are going to need some of the role players to step up and play an even bigger role than they did last year.

On Tuesday, the help came from Tony Allen and crowd favorite Leon Powe. Allen scored seven points in the first part of the final frame, including back-to-back “and 1s”, and the Powe Man scored eight points in the second half and finished with 13 points, none bigger than the emphatic one-handed tomahawk dunk on former Celtic Delonte West with 9:02 remaining in the game (76-68).

“I thought last year for Tony was very difficult,” admitted Doc Rivers. “Number one, when he plays more minutes he’s a better player. We had Ray (Allen), Paul (Pierce), and Pose (James Posey) last year. He didn’t get minutes.”

“Number two, he was fighting, trying to come back from an injury. So it was set up for him almost to struggle last year. And now that’s he’s healthy a year out and he’s getting playing time, I think he’ll be fine.”

The Celtics continued to showed their championship, veteran composure when James (22 points, 9-for-21 from the field, no-for-4 from the deep end) mounted a Cavs comeback late in the final frame.

But Ray Allen, KG and Rajon Rondo (14 points, six assists, five rebounds, three steals) combined to preserve the Celtics victory, and display the true meaning of their motto Ubuntu, which means “I am, because we are.”

The Celtics will host the Chicago Bulls on Halloween, and I anticipate a scary night for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 NBA draft Derrick Rose.