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Captain rights ship in season debut

BOSTON -- After hitting a 3-point in front of the Pistons bench, Paul Pierce whirled and playfully barked back at the unnamed player chirping at him.

"Somebody said something to me, so I like to kinda get into a little talking here and there," Pierce said with a big smile. "It just makes me feel more at home."

Welcome home, captain.

After sitting out the first three games of the season due to a bruised right heel, Pierce returned for Boston's home-opener Friday night at TD Garden and chipped in 12 points, five assists, four rebounds and a steal over 22:49 of action in a 96-85 triumph -- the Celtics' first of the season.

"I was expecting to be me," said Pierce. "I don’t settle for anything less. I worked tremendously hard, I did a lot of things -- I did what I could do, coming into the game, as much as I could, other than practice. I just stayed focused, I got my shots every day, did the bike. Doc wanted me to be aggressive, and play the way I play. That’s what I tried to do."

Pierce was, well, Pierce. He quietly filled up the stat sheet. From the start it was clear what a difference he can make as he slashed to the rim for an acrobatic layup little more than three minutes in. It was clear from that moment on it wasn't going to be easy for Doc Rivers to get him off the floor.

"Doc was about to sub me pretty early and I said, ‘I’m having too much fun right now,’ especially when I got the first basket," said Pierce. "It’s going to take me a little time just to get back in pretty good game shape, the shape I want to be in, at the level I want to play at. It’ll come."

For the Pistons taste, it came a little too quick. Pierce hit a pair of third-quarter trifectas, aiding the Celtics in stretching a seven-point halftime lead to as much as 25 points, allowing Pierce to watch the final frame from the bench.

Said Kevin Garnett: "The scoring overshadows the small things that he does. He’s a very, very good teammate and a personal friend for a long time. He has a very, very high basketball IQ, and he’s very talkative on the court. He knows how to play. And he’s willing to give the ball up on his own. When you make sacrifices like that you impact everybody. It just gets overshadowed sometime by the scoring.”

But maybe Rivers had the best story about Pierce's performance.

"I felt bad because I took [Detroit head coach] Lawrence [Frank] out to dinner last night," said Rivers. "He said, ‘Is Paul playing?’ I said, ‘No, there’s no chance.’"

Oops.

“Paul changes the game for them," sighed Frank. "Regardless, I know he’s only practiced once this whole year, but you just know what he’s capable of doing. He’s an outstanding defender as well."

Then Frank quipped, "He’s got a pretty decent shot at the Hall of Fame.”

Unlike Rivers, he was telling the Truth.