BOSTON - With Russell and Havlicek sitting courtside, and Red surely lighting up a victory cigar somewhere, these Boston Celtics returned to glory like the great teams before them.
Dominant in every way.
On a new parquet floor below aging championship banners hung in the rafters two decades back, the 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.” early and cries of “Seven-teen” in the closing seconds by their adoring crowd, the Celtics concluded a shocking rebound of a season with a stunning 131-92 blowout over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 6 on Tuesday night.
“It means so much more because these are the guys, the Havliceks, the Bill Russells, the Cousys,” Pierce said. “These guys started what’s going on with those banners. They don’t hang up any other banners but championship ones.
“And now I’m a part of it.”
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 who shook off a sprained right knee sustained in Game 1, added 17 as the Celtics, a 24-win team a year ago, wrapped up their first title since 1986.
Rajon Rondo had 21 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and six steals as the Celtics, who built a 23-point halftime lead and obliterated the Lakers, who were trying to become the first team to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the finals.
They didn’t stand a 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.
In the final minute, 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 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 and then found Russell, the Hall of Famer who taught him the Celtic way, 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 was nearly run out of town last season. Rivers lost his father at the beginning of this remarkable run, a season no one expected.
By the time Rivers was handed the Larry O’Brien Trophy, it was June 18 — his late father’s birthday.
When the game clock reached zeros, Rivers reflected on his dad.
“My first thought was what would my dad say,” Rivers said, “and honestly I started laughing because I thought he would probably say, if you knew my dad, ‘It’s about time. What have you been waiting for?”’
It’s was Boston’s first title since the passing of Auerbach, whose presence was the only thing missing on this night. Even Auerbach, who died in 2006, got some satisfaction. Led by Rivers, Auerbach’s beloved team denied Lakers coach Phil Jackson from overtaking him with a 10th championship.
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 tilted toward the Atlantic Ocean. The Celtics are 9-2 against the Lakers in the finals.
Boston missed its first crack at closing out the series in Game 5, but the Celtics didn’t miss on their second swing, running the Lakers out of the gym.
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