Pierce and Garnett were showered with ovations from pregame warmups on, and those ovations reached a crescendo when each of their moving tribute videos was shown on the Jumbotron -- Garnett's late in the first quarter and Pierce's at the end of the opening quarter.
Each time, the videos, which lasted about a minute long, showed the banners of retired uniforms hanging in the rafters above the parquet floor. It's only a matter of time before the empty spots belong to Pierce and Garnett.
"The one word that comes to mind is 'unbelievable,' " Garnett said. "I didn't expect anything like that for myself. It shows the first class, it shows what type of organization this is and their appreciation for you. And I couldn't put it into words."
They might play in Brooklyn now, but Pierce and Garnett both admitted they'll be Celtics for life -- and appreciate everything the fan base has given them over the years.
"I just wanna give a special thank you [to the fans]," Pierce said. "Through my bad times, through my immature times, through my growing up and becoming a man in this city, to winning a championship and everybody sticking with me and standing behind me, I'd just like to tell them thank you."
Added Garnett: "I think we will always bleed green, as long as we're playing basketball. As long as we're living, even when they bury us six feet [under], it's what it's gonna be."
When Pierce and Garnett were introduced in the starting lineup on the public address system, the fans roared. Garnett acknowledged the crowd, while Pierce elected not to, urging his teammates to begin their pregame dancing routine. The emotion clearly was getting to him, and he didn't want that to happen.
Pierce and Garnett had little impact on the game for the most part. Garnett, though, did make one of the biggest plays of the night. With the Nets nursing an 80-77 lead, he came through with a steal at half court and went in for a layup with 17 seconds left, making it a five-point game.
"Well I knew they were trying to run a pick and roll and Rondo was trying to get a 3 at that point," Garnett said. "I just played the passing lane. It took me two days to get the layup up. I thought I was gonna get caught there for a minute, but I got it still, put the ball in front of me and got a layup."
Pierce finished with six points on 2-for-10 shooting in 29 minutes, while Garnett had six points, three rebounds, three assists and three steals in 23 minutes.
Garnett said the magnitude of the night "didn't really hit him" until he saw members of the Celtics organization -- people like trainer Ed Lacerte, VP of public relations Jeff Twiss and director of team security Phil Lynch, among others.
"The guys who people don't really know but make this thing really go around," Garnett said.
"I saw so many friends, so many people I've known throughout the years," Pierce said. "Then you get showered with love throughout the game, you see so many Garnett jerseys, my jerseys and it's every second you're on the bench, every second during the game, people are calling your name. It was tough. But I'm happy we got it over with and I can get back to playing basketball now."
And he's doing it with someone who he feels is "like a big brother to me" -- Garnett.
"If our ride is gonna end here in Brooklyn, I wouldn't want it to end with anybody else," Pierce said.