6:30 PM ET, January 26, 2014
TD Garden, Boston, MA
It started with pregame standing ovations for the leaders of the Celtics last championship team and ended with an 85-79 win for the Brooklyn Nets after Garnett picked off Rajon Rondo's turnover and dribbled in slowly for an uncontested basket with 20 seconds left Sunday night.
"I knew they needed a 3 at that point and I just played the passing lane," Garnett said. "I thought I was going to get caught, but I got it."
That gave Brooklyn an 82-77 lead.
It was a rare highlight for the returning stars in a game in which they fought to control their emotions while still trying to contribute to their current team.
"I had lumps in my throat and I tried to focus as much as I could," Pierce said. "I'm happy we got it over with and I can go back to playing basketball."
Pierce, the second leading scorer in Celtics history, and Garnett scored just six points each, and Pierce missed eight of his 10 shots. But they received several standing ovations on the court where they won the team's 17th championship in 2008. They also were honored in tributes shown on the video screen early in the game six months after a blockbuster trade sent them to Brooklyn.
"It was, by far, the hardest day that I had to focus," said Garnett, a 19-year veteran. "It's a good homecoming."
The Celtics, losing for the 17th time in 20 games, were led by Brandon Bass with 17 points. Rondo had 13 points, eight rebounds and eight assists one night after having dinner with Pierce and Garnett.
During the video tribute to Garnett in a timeout with 2:25 left in the first quarter, he stood near his bench with a white towel draped over his head. He smiled, pounded the left side of his chest and waved several times to the crowd.
The tribute to Pierce at the end of the first quarter was longer and drew a louder ovation. He looked up at the video board above center court with a somber expression. The camera panned to him on the court showing him repeatedly mouthing the words, "thank you."
Celtics coach Brad Stevens quickly gave his players instructions then let them watch the tributes.
"It was the right thing to do," he said. "Not much in my life is bigger than the next possession, but that is."
Pierce spent 15 seasons with the Celtics after they drafted him with the 10th pick in 1998. Garnett was obtained in a trade with Minnesota before the 2007-08 season and, with Pierce and Ray Allen, led Boston to their most recent championship.
But the Celtics are in full rebuilding mode now and trailed 59-53 after three quarters then allowed the first six points of the fourth as the Nets led by 12. Boston cut the lead to 73-70 on a 3-pointer by Chris Johnson, playing on a 10-day contract, with 4:37 remaining.
The Nets scored the next five points on a layup by Kirilenko, a free throw by Deron Williams and a jumper by Pierce. That made it 78-70.
With the score 80-72, Boston cut the deficit to three on a field goal by Bass and a 3-pointer by Rondo, two of only five current Celtics who played with Pierce and Garnett last season.
"We got caught up in (their return)," Bass said, "but for the most part we had a job to do."
Joe Johnson then missed his shot and Rondo rebounded, giving Boston a chance to tie with a 3-pointer. He moved the ball upcourt only to lose it to Garnett, who went in for Brooklyn's final field goal.
"He's done it all year for us defensively," Nets coach Jason Kidd said. "He's always in the right place at the right time."
Pierce scored his first two points of the game on free throws 1:08 into the third quarter then hit his first field goal, a 16-foot jumper that capped a 10-0 Nets run 2:51 into the period.
"It was just a special thing for me," Pierce said, "through my bad times, through my immature times, through my growing up, becoming a man for this city and winning a championship, everybody sticking with me. I would just like to tell them, `thank you.' "
The crowd gave Pierce and Garnett a standing ovation when they took the court for pregame warm-ups and when they were the last two Nets starters introduced. ... Garnett won the opening tip against Bass and got the ball back to Pierce. ... The Celtics recalled center Vitor Faverani from the Maine Red Claws of the NBDL.
BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 26: Paul Pierce #34 of the Brooklyn Nets introduced against the Boston Celtics during a game...(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Around The Association
MVP: Can "nostalgia" be an MVP? No? Then we'll give it to Andray Blatche, who scored 17 points off the bench in a game that was dominated by narrative, not by offense. The Nets and Celtics shot 39 and 37 percent from the field respectively, so Blatche's offense was a necessity for Brooklyn.
Turning point: The Celtics were threatening to ruin Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett's homecoming, down by 3 with under a minute remaining, but Garnett picked Rajon Rondo's pocket and dribbled the length of the floor for a game-clinching slam.
That was ... a little dusty: An ugly game offered plenty of nice moments. Celtics fans were treated to two tribute videos and cheered deafeningly for Garnett and Pierce during introductions, changing tack on a dime to boo Nets coach Jason Kidd.
Next 5 Games
Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett combined for 25 points against the Celtics. Including Brook Lopez who is now out for the season, The Nets had a star studded starting five on paper entering the season, but none of those players even finished in the top 5 on the team in scoring tonight against the Celtics.[+]
The Nets and Celtics combined to score 69 points in the 1st half Sunday, the fewest combined points in the 1st half of any game this season.[+]
Fewest Combined Points in 1st Half - This Season
The Nets are a league-best 9-1 in January after entering the month 10-21. They are averaging 6.1 more points per 100 possessions during that stretch while allowing 5.2 fewer per 100. And Jason Kidd has his team playing at a much slower tempo - Brooklyn's averaging just 90.5 possessions per 48 minutes this month after entering that stretch at 94.6. The league average is 96.4.[+]
Nets This Season
Paul Pierce spent 15 seasons with Celtics and totaled 24,021 career points (both 2nd most in franchise history behind John Havlicek). Pierce is 1 of 3 players in Celtics history that played at least 10 seasons with the C's and then switched teams (Robert Parish, Jo Jo White).[+]
The Nets' 11 points in the 1st quarter against the Celtics is tied for their fewest in an opening period in the last 5 seasons (also had 11 on Dec. 27, 2011 against the Hawks).
Kevin Garnett's last game in Boston as an opposing player came on March 4th, 2007. He registered a triple-double with 33 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists - but the Timberwolves fell in double overtime, 124-117. Garnett hit a 3-pointer from 28 feet to tie the game with 4.5 seconds left in the first overtime. He's averaging 22.6 points and 10.0 rebounds in his career against the Celtics, 1 of 3 players to hit for those marks against Boston dating back to the ABA-NBA merger (Karl Malone, Shaquille O'Neal).
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