Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett ‘happy’ for playoff support of Celtics fans during Nets run
|04.24.14 at 4:25 pm ET|
Paul Pierce knows the postseason as well as he knows Boston.
“This is the playoffs,” he said from the Nets practice facility in East Rutherford, N.J. “This is do or die.”
Pierce played 136 playoff games over 15 seasons for the Celtics. His 24,021 points rank second on the team’s all-time scoring list, brought a championship back to Boston in 2008, and also earned the NBA Finals MVP that very same season. The Truth restored meaning to the NBA’s signature franchise, so No. 34 still appreciates that Celtics fans are watching his run in Brooklyn.
“There’s a lot of fans [in Boston],” he added, “and I’m happy for their support.”
Kevin Garnett spent the last six seasons as a Celtic, patrolling the Garden paint and delivering a Bill Russell-esque intensity focused completely on winning. Up until this season, Garnett had played his last 84 playoff games for Boston, providing the interior defense, elbows, scowls and growls that the people of Boston know intimately well.
“This is a different level of intensity,” said Garnett, who verified the fans in Boston understand that vigor and fury. “A different level of concentration. Some people can withstand that for 48 minutes, and some can’t.”
Pierce and Garnett helped Brooklyn split the first two games with the Atlantic Division champion Raptors. Now the Nets head back to play two home games in the Barclays Center, a place Pierce still finds odd calling home. He has registered two playoff games so far for the Nets, and is still getting used to placing his long arms through a green and white jersey before each game.
“I’ve already been through the regular 82 games,” said Pierce, who still wanted to know more about the Red Sox win over the Yankees and the Michael Pineda pine tar incident. “So that’s helped me get over that.”
Pierce also admitted he feels significantly better than he did a year ago, when his Celtics lost in five games to the Knicks in the opening round of the playoffs.
“Throughout the regular season, the [Rajon] Rondo injury physically and mentally took a toll on me,” said Pierce. “I started playing up toward the 40-minute mark in the second half of the season, and I was kind of spent in the playoffs.”
Despite surprising the Association with 48 wins this season, the Raptors were unable to protect the home-court advantage and dropped the series opener to the Nets. Pierce dropped 15 points in the win, including nine straight in the fourth, while Garnett swallowed up the paint on the defensive end in the fourth quarter.
“We understand we have to take this one game at a time,” said Garnett. “When you’re playing off energy, momentum, adrenaline, and all that wears down and goes out the window, now it’s time to use what you know. If you never experienced that, then you’re just playing basic basketball.”
Three more victories will give Brooklyn the opportunity to tangle with the back-to-back champion Heat, including longtime Celtics adversary LeBron James. Ray Allen, an integral piece of the C’s championship in 2008 and the new Big Three, chose to take his talents to South Beach and play for the Heat, a fact the two former Celtics in Brooklyn have yet to forget.
Long memories are no issue for veterans like Pierce and Garnett, who remember their time in Boston as a pinnacle of their career.
“I’ve only done this one time,” said Pierce. “It’s a hard thing to do.”
“I’ve never seen a series in Brooklyn before,” added Garnett. “We’re about to see what that’s like.”