A night after his Los Angeles Lakers’ rival Kobe Bryant surpassed his former teammate Shaquille O’Neal on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, Boston Celtics captain Paul Pierce moved in front of the legendary Larry Bird for second on the franchise’s career scoring list.
Pierce needed only nine points to overtake Bird when the Celtics hosted the Charlotte Bobcats on Tuesday night at TD Garden. The 34-year-old wing man passed Bird within the first minute of the third quarter and the Celtics celebrated the milestone by closing out the Bobcats, 94-84, to increase their season-best winning streak to five.
With every deep breath that the sellout crowd took, Pierce could hear and see the anticipation on the Celtics faithful faces. The TD Garden crowd, which included his mother, was aware that Pierce was just nine points from Bird at tipoff. And when he scored a quick seven, it seemed as if he might not ever obtain the feat as he missed his next five shots. The Celtics did everything in their ability -even passing up shots- to help him get to the mark during the first half. But Pierce couldn’t deliver. Boston’s anxiety continued to mount although the Celtics held a seven point advantage over the Bobcats at the half, 45-38.
Pierce missed his opening shot to start the third quarter, but then, with 10:23 on the clock, he took a feed from Rajon Rondo (10 points, 14 assists) out beyond the arc to the right of the top of the key. This time his 3-pointer found the bottom of the net to move one point passed the man from French Lick with 21,792 points, and up Bill Russell, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish in Celtics history. There was no announcement, and need for one, as everyone at TD Garden seemed to know what Pierce’s shot meant in addition to giving the C’s a 48-40 lead in the game. The captain pumped his fist and received a high-five from teammate Kevin Garnett (22 points, seven rebounds) as the Boston fans gave him a standing ovation. The applause lasted for several minutes as teammate Mickael Pietrus (five points) stood at the Celtics bench holding a towel on which “The Truth” was written in large letters. The official announcement finally came during a time out with 5:14 left in the quarter and Pierce went to midcourt, blew a few kisses and bowed during another round of applause, as a video tribute played on the Jumbotron above him.
Pierce now trails only John Havlicek on the franchise’s all-time scoring list. He went on to score 15 points and flirted with a triple-double, grabbing eight rebounds and dishing out nine assists in Boston’s win over Charlotte. The Truth needs just 4,598 more points to tie Havlicek at 26,395 on the Celtics’ list. Given that he is only third among his current teammates in career scoring, behind Kevin Garnett’s 23,659 and Ray Allen’s (17 points) 22,583, Pierce, who has been with only one team since entering the NBA, is aware that individual numbers pale in comparison to number of championships when you’re a Celtic. He told ESPN, “I think the fans would really appreciate another championship more than me passing Hondo.”
Considering the awe-inspiring litany of Hall of Famers’ who have spent their careers in Boston -and delivered multiple championships-Pierce’s legacy will always be one of value, loyalty and dedication to the Celtics in the aughts. He stands as one of the greatest players to ever suit up for the C’s, despite his lone championship for a franchise that boasts having hung more banners than any club in NBA history. Still, the fact remains that Pierce will never move pass Larry Legend in the hearts of Celtics fans- but he’s on par with anyone who has laced them up for Boston. “In my mind, [Bird] is one of the top five players to ever play the game,” Pierce said to ESPN. “I’m not going to sit here and say that I’m anywhere near his accomplishments, but just to be mentioned with him, with this organization, is a great honor.”
With Bryant and the Lakers coming to Beantown on Thursday, Pierce, who finished the night at 21,797, will look to extend the Celtics win-streak to six by downing Boston’s oldest and fiercest rival. (Photo)