Pierce leads Celtics to 17th NBA title

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

BOSTON -- On a new parquet floor below aging championship banners, the Boston Celtics won their 17th NBA title and a first one -- at last -- for Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen -- their Big Three for a new generation.

After 22 long years, the NBA has gone green.

Lifted by ear-splitting chants of "Beat L.A." from their adoring crowd, which included Boston legends Bill Russell John Havlicek and JoJo White, the Celtics concluded a shocking rebound of a season Tuesday with a stunning 131-92 blowout over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 6.

With the outcome assured, Boston fans sang into the night as if they were in a pub on nearby Canal Street. They serenaded the newest champs in this city of champs, and taunted Kobe Bryant and his Lakers, who drowned in a green-and-white wave for 48 minutes.

Garnett scored 26 points with 14 rebounds, Allen scored 26 and Pierce, the finals MVP, added 17 as the Celtics, a 24-win team a year ago, wrapped up their first crown since 1986.

This was total domination. The Celtics obliterated the Lakers, who were trying to become the first team to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the finals.

No way.

No how.

No chance.

Boston's 39-point win surpassed the NBA record for the biggest margin of victory in a championship clincher; the Celtics beat the Lakers 129-96 in Game 5 of the 1965 NBA finals.

Pierce doused Celtics coach Doc Rivers with red Gatorade. Owner Wyc Grousbeck, who named his group Banner 17 to leave no doubt about his goal, put an unlit cigar in his mouth -- a tribute to Red Auerbach, the patriarch who had a hand in the franchise's first 16 titles.

Garnett dropped to the parquet and kissed the leprechaun at center court, then found Hall of Famer Russell for a long embrace.

"I got my own. I got my own," Garnett said. "I hope we made you proud."

"You sure did," Russell said.

Rivers pulled Pierce, Garnett and Allen with 4:01 left, and they shared a group hug with their coach, who nearly was run out of town last season. In the final minute, Rivers, who lost his father at the beginning of this remarkable season, was soaked by Pierce, the Celtics' captain who decided to stay when things were bad and was rewarded for his loyalty.

It was Boston's first title since the passing of Auerbach, whose signature victory cigar was the only thing missing on this night. Even Auerbach, who died in 2006, got some satisfaction. Led by Rivers, his beloved team denied Lakers coach Phil Jackson from overtaking him with a 10th championship.

A perfect ending: a 17th title on the 17th of June.

The Boston-Los Angeles rivalry, nothing more than black-and-white footage from the '60s and TV highlights of players wearing short shorts in the '80s to young hoops fans, remains titled toward the Atlantic Ocean. The Celtics are 9-2 against the Lakers in the finals.

They missed their first crack at closing out the series in Game 5, but didn't miss on their second swing, running the Lakers out of their gym.

Bryant, the regular season MVP, finished with 22 points.

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