It certainly wasn't an easy win for the Celtics tonight, and that's pretty fitting, because it hasn't been an easy ride for Paul Pierce either.
It only makes sense that it would take some clutch plays down the stretch in overtime for Pierce to eclipse the 20,000 point mark - all coming as a member of the Boston Celtics.
With the Celtics up 99-97, Pierce stepped to the line with 13.3 seconds left in overtime. Everyone knew he needed one point to reach 20,000 points - he knew it too. The shot went up, and like so many others that led to 20,000 points, ended with a swish. This time, he held his arms up for a few extra seconds.
"It was an emotional moment for me," Pierce said. "It was tough for me to swallow at that time. I was just thinking about all the years I've been here. You don't see it too often where a player accomplishes that type of feat playing with one team. It's a great accomplishment.
"It means so much to the fans seeing my ups and downs throughout the years and sticking with me. Just to be able to accomplish this type of feat it means a lot to me. I'm not going to downplay it. It means a lot."
For fans that have been with this team throughout Pierce's career, they know just how special this moment is. There was a time not too long ago when nobody knew what the future held for Paul Pierce as a Boston Celtic - he certainly didn't.
"You know, five years ago I wouldn't have even dreamed that I would be scoring 20,000 points in a Celtics uniform" he said. "The team was going in a [different] direction. I was a disgruntled player at the time. To still be here and still be talking about this feat is an incredible moment for me."
Only 36 other players in the NBA have ever eclipsed the 20,000-point mark. Kevin Garnett is also one of those 36 players, so he knows just how hard it is to do, and how important it is.
"It is a great feat," Garnett said. "To be honest it is something that inadvertently I didn't really think of until you're like on the doorstep knocking on the door, then I think it hits you that you're a part of history.
"Like Paul said, to do it in one uniform is very, very special. There's only a select few that's in that category. It's a very, very small window of people that's in it and it's a good list of people to be neighbored by, so congratulations Paul."
Doc Rivers admitted that it's hard to comprehend just how much 20,000 points is but agreed that doing it all with one uniform is almost unheard of these days.
"Yeah, well that's even better [to do it with one team]," Rivers said. "But in a lot of ways, that is the Celtic way. When you think about it, all the guys that have the big numbers with the Celtics were basically Celtics. When you think about it. So it's fitting in a lot of ways, because that is the way it's been done around here for a long, long time. And that's good."
For the record, John Havlicek and Larry Bird are the only two Celtics with more points than Pierce has as a member of the Celtics. According to Tommy Heinsohn, Pierce is the best scorer to ever put on a Celtics jersey.
"You say those names, those are Hall of Fame players, top 50 players," Pierce said. "Just to be mentioned in the same sentence with them as far as scoring, it means a lot. These guys are part of history. These are guys you're going to remember in Celtic lore forever. Hopefully I can enshrine my name in that category as I continue to play and continue to do good things for this franchise."
It wasn't supposed to happen tonight. The Celtics should have won this thing in regulation. But a few mental lapses in and out of timeouts led to a few easy baskets for the Bucks. Even so, Pierce only had 16 points going into the overtime. That's when Pierce put the team on his back, like he has done so many times throughout his career. Pierce singlehandedly outscored the entire Bucks team in overtime, 12-11. Maybe it was his will to win the game, maybe it was him wanting that mark tonight - it was probably both.
"Coming into the game I knew it but I didn't want to press it," Pierce said of the mark. "I mean it was going to happen. I knew I needed 23 tonight to get it. I knew once I got to 22 I thought ‘oh, ok,' it was a great opportunity to go to the line. As a player, you ask players about certain things, they know. It's like when guys are close to a triple-double, they know. You need another rebound, another point. Whether they like to admit it, the players know."
Congratulations, Paul. Here's to 20,000 points and many more.
Paul Pierce Scores 20,000 Points - 20k - 11/3/2010 (via NBARauf)