Paul Pierce had a terrible first half in his first ever NBA Finals.
After ending the half on the bench with an equal number of points and fouls (three), Pierce was just itching to get back out on the floor to help his team erase a five point half time deficit.
For all the talk about Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, this is still Paul Pierce’s team. He’s still the captain. He’s still the go-to guy. He’s still the heart and soul of the team. He’s the most capable of taking over a game and erupting with a ridiculous outburst of points.
With all due respect to everyone else on the team, he’s the only real Celtic on the team.
Kevin Garnett is a great player, but he’s still in his first season in Boston. Ray Allen might have gone to U-Conn, but living in the area doesn't make you a Boston Celtic.
Paul Pierce is a Celtic. He was drafted by Rick Pitino. He suffered through terrible ownership, awful coaching, extremely questionable trades, weak supporting casts, and impatient Celtic fans.
He’s been a scapegoat for bad teams and the best player on good teams. He’s been a fan favorite—he’s felt the fan’s wrath.
He’s the one who’s been here throughout all of the struggles. He’s the one who deserved a trip to the NBA Finals more than any other player wearing a green uniform.
And you know what? He’s also the most capable of lifting the Celtics on his shoulders and carrying them to victory over Kobe Bryant and the favored Los Angeles Lakers.
You just had a feeling the Captain was going to come out of the locker room with a purpose.
Paul Pierce, as he’s done for most of his career in Boston, didn’t disappoint.
He scored eight points in what seemed like 30 seconds, including an insane four-point play. He single-handedly turned a five point halftime deficit into a three point third quarter lead.
Then Kobe Bryant drove towards the baseline and fired up a fall-away jumped—the type of jumper Pierce had been forcing him to shoot all game long.
Pierce challenged the shot, but so did Perkins. Kendrick Perkins landed on Pierce’s leg, and the Captain when down in a heap clutching his knee.
Just like that, the Celtics’ hopes for an NBA championship were dashed.
Twenty-two years since the Celtics had won a championship. Over a decade of suffering through awful teams. The Celtics finally looked like they had a chance, and just like that it was over.
And believe me, if Pierce goes down, the series is OVER.
Doc Rivers called a timeout and fired up his troops, but the life was completely sucked out of the entire New England region. Even with the Celtics going on a small run, the crowd was still sitting in stunned silence.
Then the crowd began to cheer. Then the crowd erupted. Paul Pierce was back from the locker room. Paul Pierce was checking back into the game.
The Celtics’ championship hopes were still alive!
Then Pierce hit two transition three pointers on consecutive plays, and the story was written. The legend of Paul Pierce, a legend he had been trying to build for ten long years in Boston, was finally written.
In Boston, you don’t become a real Celtic until you do it against the Lakers in the NBA Finals.
Thursday night, Paul Pierce became a Celtic.
When his number is retired and raised to the rafters in the fake Garden (and his number will end up in the rafters, no doubt about that), this is the story they’ll tell. The day Paul Pierce rose from the wheel chair to lead his team to victory over the hated Lakers in game one of the 2008 NBA Finals.
It couldn’t have happened to a more deserving guy—a more deserving Celtic.
It was only one game.
Pierce may have been going on adrenaline only.
His knee might still decide the series, one way or the other.
But no matter what happens, Pierce will be remembered for his performance in game one.
He’s not Larry Bird, he’s not Bill Russell, but he is Paul Pierce. And Paul Pierce is pretty damn good.
Just ask the Lakers.
Sean Crowe is a Senior Writer at Bleacher Report. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His archive can be found here. You can find everything he writes, including articles for other publications, here.