Doc Rivers calls himself an emotional guy. So, it was no wonder that he said he was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love — including a standing ovation — the Boston Celtics fans showed their old coach in his return with the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday night.
“It was just a really nice day,” said Rivers, fighting back tears after his team defeated the Celtics, 96-88 at the TD Garden. “This is, it’s just such a classy place here. . . . They cheer for their teams and they love their athletes. The best decision I ever made was 10 years ago, when I decided to come.”
Fans roared and applauded Rivers, who led the Celtics to the 2008 NBA championship, when he walked onto the court and they gave him a rousing standing ovation during pregame introductions. The former NBA point guard was visibly moved.
“It was really nice,” he said. “When I walked out. … All those guys, people lined up. … I was basically useless for the first 18 minutes of the game. … It didn’t surprise me. You’ve got to live here to understand that. Just an amazing fan base. … I want everything to go well for them.”
His new team added to Boston’s struggles. In a close game, reserve guard Jamal Crawford (21 points) scored six points on a pair of three-point shots to help the Clippers pull away in the final 3 minutes. Point guard Chris Paul had typical solid floor game with 22 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. And high-flyer Blake Griffin added 18 points for LA, which won for the seventh time in 10 games.
“It was a really special win,” Crawford said. “You could see his emotions. I don’t know what he was going through inside.”
According to Celtic Jeff Green, he and his team that Rivers left behind did not feel the nostalgia of the coach’s return. “It wasn’t emotional,” said Green, one of just a handful of Celtics remaining from last year’s team. “We were just trying to win a game, plain and simple.”