When Rivers was introduced before the game, and again when his video tribute rolled, only a roar of approval could be heard. Boston fans did what they always do: They celebrated a figure who brought one of their beloved teams to the pinnacle of success and showered Rivers with love for his achievements here.
Oh sure, they went right back to booing his Clippers and -- with the exception of the "lottery or bust" crowd -- were hoping a Celtics victory could take a tiny bit of enjoyment out of his visit.
Not that the end result mattered much to Rivers. Sometimes the moment transcends the game. He spent pretty much his entire night catching up with anyone who caught his gaze -- security guards, Celtics staffers, season-ticket holders, reporters -- seemingly anyone whose path he might have crossed during those nine years in Boston.
Rivers joked with his coaches that he needed halftime more than his players, who trailed 45-39 at intermission. He praised Chris Paul for picking up the team -- and his coach, given Rivers' emotional state.
After the final buzzer, Rivers met his replacement, first-year Celtics coach Brad Stevens, at center court and shared a brief moment. "Brad's going to be a terrific coach and he's going to be here a long time," Rivers said. Knowing the franchise is in good hands probably makes it a little easier for Rivers to distance himself from Boston.
He admitted before Wednesday's game that it's only human nature to wonder what would have been if he had remained here. Trips back will always make him wonder why he left.
But, he'll remind himself, it was time to move on. Just like, at the end of the night, after shaking a million hands and posing for a million photos, Rivers composed himself one last time and moved on. The Clippers were off to Brooklyn, where he'll get a second dose of Boston nostalgia when his team dances with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and the Nets on Thursday.
"It's harder to come back here," Rivers said. "Playing against them -- it's just two guys that I love in a Brooklyn uniform. Coming back here, that's special for me. I get to walk under a banner that I helped get and see the fans and see a lot of my friends. This day and a half has been a lot of fun, but it's also been very emotional."
The song that accompanied Rivers' tribute video was a country song by Dierks Bentley appropriately titled "Home." And the lyrics reminded Rivers: "It's been a long hard ride / Got a ways to go / But this is still the place / That we all call home."