Celtics return home to Boston to celebrate championship with win

October 31, 2008

“We Love Ya, Paul!” The words rang out from the balcony as Paul Pierce gave a heartfelt thank you speech to the loyal Celtics fans that came out Tuesday night to celebrate a championship. When Bob Cousy retired, the silence of the ceremony was broken with the same words. Bill Russell got the phrase as well when his number was retired. Pierce finally joined the promised land of Celtic champions and is now up there with the legends of the parquet floor.

Fans that came out to the game were first treated to an impromptu dunk contest. After all, when the Cleveland Cavaliers play a team, LeBron James goes dunk crazy in warm-ups. When warm-ups ended, LeBron left, along with the lights. Then a video montage of last season was shown, concluding with the image of all-time Celtic leading scorer John Havlicek leading an array of Celtic legends to the court while carrying that formerly elusive 17th championship trophy. The Celtics went 21 seasons without a championship. The previous longest drought came in the 10 seasons before Cousy and Russell brought that first championship to Boston in 1957.

Fans were then treated to watching the proud Celtics walk over and get their new championship rings. Newly crowned President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge got a large ovation. Larry Bird and Kevin McHale might have been better players during the 1980’s, but Ainge now has the only executive ring of the three. A highlight of the ceremony came when they announced free agent Scott Pollard to get his ring. Pollard was in the front row of the crowd, but appeared to have a mental lapse and had to run over to get his ring after a pause. The ring ceremony concluded with a proud Paul Pierce holding his hand with a shiny emerald addition up to the crowd.

Then the game started. Pierce and company were clearly distracted in the first half as they never got a lead. LeBron took a commanding lead for the Cavaliers and suddenly things weren’t so high in Boston. But in the third quarter the Celtics took the lead for the first time and the game became a heated back and fourth contest. Pierce wiped away the pre-game tears and scored a game-high 27 points. The Celtics won 90-85.

Perhaps the best highlight of the game though came after the third quarter ended. Lucky, the Celtic mascot, was doing dunks off of a trampoline and decided he needed a special ball holder. Out of the crowd he pulled Red Sox star Kevin Youkillis. Youkillis held the ball up as Lucky jumped over him and dunked, putting the crowd into a frenzy that got the Garden crowd to high-decibel levels which never lowered. The look on owner John Henry’s face seeing his prized infielder in harm’s way was simply priceless.

The Celtics now have a NBA leading 17 championship banners hanging in the rafters at TD Banknorth Garden. It hangs majestically in between a banner with retired numbers and the 1986 banner. If the Celtics defeat of the Cavaliers is any indication, they better make room for an 18th.

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