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Paul Pierce has come full circle. He is entering his 11th season, and for the most part has had an up-and-down career in Boston. He spent his first few years in the NBA forming the Dynamic Duo with Antoine Walker, then spent the next few years as the team’s lone bright star in what had to be the most frustrating stretch in his career. Now, on October 28, 2008, his eyes were watering up as he collected his first NBA Championship ring.
Pierce and the rest of the Celtics organization helped raise Banner No. 17 (literally) to the rafters after the ring ceremony, right in between the 1986 World Champion banner and the banners for retired numbers. The raising of the banner and Pierce’s touching speech before tipoff put an official close to the 2007-08 season, and led to the official start of the new campaign. The Celtics rode the emotion of the historical night to a 90-85 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Celtics captain, despite his emotions, led the Celtics with 27 points (10-19), three rebounds, and four assists. Pierce seemed quicker yet stronger, a sign that his workout plan in the offseason was a huge success.
LeBron James led the Cavs with 22 points, seven rebounds, and six assists, but he seemed off for most of the night. Other than the few highlight-reel dunks and 20-foot jumpers, LeBron seemed a bit rusty. He finished 9-21 from the floor (0-4 from 3-pt land) and only 4-8 from the free throw line. To become the undisputed best player in the NBA, LeBron needs to improve his free throw shooting and his accuracy from beyond the arc.
The Celtics bench provided the team with energy, especially in the third quarter with Kendrick Perkins in foul trouble. Doc Rivers also sat Pierce for part of the period, allowing Leon Powe (13 points) and a rejuvenated Tony Allen (11 points) to make something happen. Powe had a couple thunderous dunks, while Allen had a couple big offensive rebounds, and two big three-point plays to keep the Cavs from coming back.
Seeing the game in person may have clouded by judgment (I am a fan after all), but it seemed as if the officiating was a bit tight. They were calling everything. I know Kendrick Perkins has trouble staying in games, but three of his six fouls were just ridiculous. The play he fouled out on was even more absurd, as he was trying to set a pick but was called for a blocking foul.
Kevin Garnett (11 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals) and Ray Allen (8 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist) were both relatively quiet. Perhaps they were affected by the emotion of the pregame ceremonies, or it could just be rust. I’m not going to read to much into it because it’s just the first game of the season.
Next on the schedule: The C’s will host the Bulls on Halloween night (this Friday).
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