BOSTON — The emotion and admiration belonged to Paul Pierce. But the game belonged to his old team.
The TD Garden crowd loved both.
Pierce, making one final appearance as a player, started and played the first 4:57. The Celtics applauded Pierce, then drenched the Los Angeles Clippers under a shower of threes in a 107-102 win, Boston’s seventh straight victory, on Sunday.
The Celtics (33-18) fired up a club-record 52 3-point goals (30 in the first half), making 16, and Isaiah Thomas notched his 35th straight 20-point game as Boston led wire to wire.
Pierce knelt and kissed the leprechaun logo at midcourt and then took the first shot of the game. It rimmed in and out and he was gone after less than five minutes, all zeroes except for the missed shot.
Chants of “We want Paul Pierce” and “We want Paul” rang down at the start of the second half. The chants became serious in the closing minutes. He re-entered the game with 19.8 seconds left to another major ovation — and drained a 3-pointer with 11 seconds left, thus avoiding what would have been his first scoreless game ever in the building (630 games).
The 39-year-old veteran waved to the crowd as he went down court and chants of “Thank you Paul” broke out after the final buzzer. He was then surrounded by television cameras. He then kissed the logo again and left waving to the adoring crowd, which might see him next when his No. 34 goes up in the rafters.
Thomas scored 28 points and added eight assists and his team hit 30.8 percent from behind the arc. Al Horford scored 13 points and grabbed a season-high 15 rebounds while dishing out six assists. Amir Johnson, Marcus Smart and Kelly Olynyk all had 13 points and Jae Crowder and Jaylen Brown added 11 points apiece in the win.
The Clippers (31-20 and losers of four of five) made a late run and shaved a 12-point lead with 2:48 remaining down to four. But Thomas and Horford nailed it down with four free throws apiece.
Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford led the Clippers, who are still playing without the injured Chris Paul, with 23 points apiece, Griffin adding eight rebounds and four assists. Crawford hit three 3-pointers, giving him 1,999 for his career. Raymond Felton added 16 points off the Los Angeles bench.
DeAndre Jordan grabbed 16 rebounds for the Clippers.
ABC, doing the game, nationally reported the Celtics became the third team in history to attempt 30 3-pointers in a half, as they went 9 of 30 in the first half.
Boston’s Jonas Jerebko left the game late in the third quarter after a collision with teammate Jaylen Brown. Jerebko, who seemed to hit Brown’s shoulder, left with a bloody nose.
The Celtics reached 100 points for the 25th straight game, most for the franchise since a 32-game run in 1986-87.
NOTES: The first standing ovation for former Celtics F Paul Pierce came when he walked out for warmups. The next one came when Pierce, who hadn’t played since Dec. 31, was announced as a starter. The third, and by far the longest, came during a video tribute during the first timeout, drawing clear emotion from Pierce. A chant of “Thank you Paul Pierce” then rang out. “We’ll stand and cheer. He deserves that,” said Boston coach Brad Stevens. “He’s clearly not only revered amongst the people of New England, but also in our building.” … Boston G Avery Bradley missed his 10th straight game with an Achilles strain but is closer. “From what I’ve been told he’s going to see (a doctor) again today, but the plan was for him to travel,” said Stevens, whose team opens a four-game trip at Sacramento Wednesday. … The Clippers continue their road trip at Toronto on Monday night. … Clippers coach Doc Rivers on Tom Brady: “I wish him the best of luck. In my eyes he’s the greatest quarterback that ever played.”