Houston will be the center of the sports world on Sunday for Super Bowl LI between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons, but that won’t be the only big Boston sports event that day.
The red-hot Celtics also will play in a matinee contest against the Los Angeles Clippers in what will be Paul Pierce’s last regular-season game in Boston. Ever.
Pierce played 15 seasons in Boston, and helped the Celtics win their 17th NBA championship in 2008. That’s something C’s fans never will forget. And while he hasn’t played for the home team at TD Garden since the 2012-13 season, his presence still is felt all throughout the building.
“I think he’s highly respected here and around this league,” Celtics guard Marcus Smart said Friday after Boston’s 113-107 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. “When you are on a team like he was and a guy like he was and do the things that he did, you never really leave this place. Boston is known for making guys feel very welcome and home here. I don’t think Pierce will ever be truly gone.”
In the years since Pierce, Isaiah Thomas has emerged as the new face of the C’s, and he’s someone “The Truth” certainly has noticed. Pierce even called IT a “championship-caliber player” in a recent interview with The Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach.
And that’s something Thomas appreciated hearing.
“I didn’t know that,” Thomas said. “That means everything and from a first-ballot Hall of Famer, a Celtics legend to say that about me, that means a lot. Like I always say, I don’t care about what anybody says but my peers and the people who did it before me. For a guy like that, that is crazy. I’m going to try to find his jersey so I can get it signed.”
Let’s check out a few notes from Friday’s game.
— The Celtics once again were without guard Avery Bradley on Friday.
Before the game, Celtics coach Brad Stevens provided an update on Bradley, who’s only played in one game since the Celtics’ Jan. 6 win over the Philadelphia 76ers due to an Achilles injury.
“Avery did a few workouts Wednesday and was really sore yesterday, so didn’t do as much yesterday,” Stevens said. “But he feels good today and was able to do a workout early in the morning. … We’re still progressing at a conservative rate. We want him feeling 110 percent.”
— Arguably the Celtics’ most important player on the court Friday was Smart. While his nine points were nowhere near Thomas’ 38, he had the best plus/minus in the game at plus-11, and he also had seven assists and five steals.
— Speaking of IT, the Boston point guard finished two points shy of scoring 40 points in three straight games, which would have been a Celtics record.
His response when finding out he just missed out on making history?
— Boston now has won six games in a row, and it leads the Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards by 2.5 games for the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed. The Celtics also now only trail the Cleveland Cavaliers by two games for the No. 1 seed.
— As you’ve probably heard, these two historic teams both entered Friday night tied for the most regular-season wins all time with 3,252 victories, and the C’s now have surpassed their rivals as the all-time winningest regular-season franchise.
The C’s made note of that in a sheet provided to the media before the game, and they also added some other notable Lakers/Celtics stats.
If you can’t make those out due to my terrible photography skills, here’s a closer look at the numbers from the rivalry:
— Probability of having equal # of wins: 1 in 8292
— Celtics leading scorer: John Havlichek, 1,955 points
— Lakers leading scorer: Elgin Baylor 2,338 points
— Regular-season record: Celtics 156, Lakers 128
— NBA Finals record: Celtics 9, Lakers 3
— Total Hall of Famers: Celtics 33, Lakers 26
Or, in other words, advantage Boston.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images