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Paul Pierce bids farewell as Celtics beat Clippers 107-102

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Paul Pierce said farewell to the Celtics fans as he played in his last game in the Garden. The Celtics held off the Clippers in the end to hold onto second place.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Boston Celtics Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

BOSTON — Once in awhile, the game fades into the background. Something greater is at play, that spans a generation of memories, trials and tribulations.

When Paul Pierce stepped on the parquet floor for the final time, he looked up to the rafters. He saw the 2008 World Champions banner dangling, surrounded by a sea of previous championships and retired numbers for the warriors that earned them.

Pierce told me before the game that when he stepped onto the floor for the first time Sunday, the first memory that hit him was the tears shed as the Celtics raised that banner nearly a decade ago.

When the Celtics aired their tribute video after the first timeout of the game, those tears came flowing out one last time. Pierce sat back down and never returned until the final few seconds, despite constant chants ranging from “We want Paul Pierce!” to simply “Paul Pierce!” He checked in for the final play of the game and buried a three as the Garden exploded. as the Celtics won 107-102.

It was a peculiar game, where Isaiah Thomas’ fourth quarter heroics were just average with a typical 10 points in the fourth. He came into the night needing 33 points to eek past Larry Bird to reach 30 points per game on the season, which would be a franchise record. He only finished with 28, but will have plenty of time to continue that chase.

The Celtics set a franchise record with 52 three-point attempts, joining the Houston Rockets and New York Knicks as the only franchises to cross the half-century mark in a game.