For the first time in his career, Paul Pierce played against the only franchise he'd ever known since coming into the league in 1998. He and Kevin Garnett were teammates in Celtics green for six seasons, but they were visitors at the TD Garden on Sunday.
The atmosphere was electric all night long, with thunderous cheers and classy first-quarter video tributes for the two future Hall of Fame Celtic legends.
The surreal environment seemed to make an impact on the game itself, as both teams played sloppy basketball, including Pierce, who shot just 2-of-10.
But despite an 11-point first quarter, Brooklyn hung tough throughout the night, in a game that Pierce called the toughest game he's ever had to play in his illustrious NBA career, playoff clinchers and all.
Though the two aging stars combined to make just five shots, it was Garnett who may have made the biggest play of the game, intercepting a pass from former teammate Rajon Rondo and running the length of the court for a game-clinching layup.
“I knew they were trying to run a pick-and-roll and Rondo was trying to get a three," Garnett explained after the game. "I just played the passing lane."
“He’s done it all year for us defensively," Jason Kidd said. "He’s always in the right place at the right time, and he looked like Michael Jordan there at the end.”
Garnett might not be the scorer MJ was, but his resurgence in the month of January has been a sight to see. He shot 50% on Sunday, along with three rebounds, three assists, and three steals. The Nets are 10-0 in the games KG has played this month.
While the atmosphere and aura surrounding the game was breathtaking, the game itself was far from spectacular. Nevertheless, it was a gritty win for a Brooklyn team that not so long ago was desperate for any type of win, no matter how pretty or ugly.
Nowadays the Nets aren't quite as desperate, but you never have to apologize for a win in this league. It may have been an ugly game for 48 minutes, but they'll take an ugly win over a moral victory any day. That's what it comes down to, after all.
Pierce and Garnett have made selfless sacrifices this season for the good of their new team, providing the same intangibles that have always been their calling card. Some day they'll have their Celtics numbers retired in the TD Garden rafters. But for now, they're wearing the Brooklyn black and white. The Nets are lucky to have them.