NO member of the Boston Celtics enjoyed their 17th championship more than Paul Pierce.
Pierce scored 17 points as Boston beat the Los Angeles Lakers 131-92 on Tuesday night to clinch the title, and his 21.8 points average in the six-game series made him a unanimous choice for the MVP award.
A Celtic all his career, the 11-year veteran had lived through the misery of Boston’s down years, toiling away for the NBA’s most successful ever franchise during a time when success never came.
But on Tuesday night, Pierce’s moment arrived as the six-time All-Star got the championship he dreamed of.
“This is what makes those other moments so sweet,” he said. “Knowing that your were at rock bottom a year ago today, and to climb all the way to the top. This is a dream come true, and I’m going to cherish it forever.”
Last summer, a title seemed like nothing but a dream for Pierce. Dejected after a season in which the Celtics finished with the second worst record in the NBA, 24-58, Pierce was ready to move on. However, some gambles in the marketplace by general manager Danny Ainge saw them romp through the regular-season with an NBA-best 66-16 record.
Boston’s big three of Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett never took their eyes off the prize, the All-Stars, tossing their egos aside to fill the one gaping hole they each had on their CVs – a championship.
“Kevin, myself and Ray sacrificed so much of what we did throughout our careers to get to this point, because we’ve done everything we’ve been able to do individually, won all type of awards, but never made it to the mountain top,” Pierce said. “Today it’s like a breath of fresh air.”
Garnett can also take his place as one of the all-time NBA greats with this championship. He, like Pierce, laboured away for a team going nowhere for so long, spending 12 years with a Minnesota Timberwolves team that often promised so much, but delivered so little, suffering agonising defeats in the first round of the play-offs in seven straight seasons.
Throughout it all, Garnett put up eye-popping numbers, but by last summer it was clear he would have to move in order to get himself a championship ring.
The Lakers seemed the favourites to get his services, but instead it was them he helped kill off in this Finals series.
“We said this is the reason we came here,” Garnett said of the championship. “This is the reason we got together, and Danny (Ainge) made it go down. This is it right now.”
“It seems like everything has worked out all year,” Allen added. “We respect each other, and we’re here sitting on championship 17.”
The marketers made Garnett the face of the franchise this season, but it is Pierce the players still looked to. This had, afterall, been his team for a decade, and Garnett and Allen resolved to keep it that way.
“We said from day one this is Paul’s team,” Garnett said. “Ray and I had no problem with that. (Coach) Doc (Rivers) let us know that the three of us were going to have to sacrifice. I know it sounds old fashioned and cliche, but it’s just real talk.”
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