BOSTON – Kevin Garnett stole the ball from his friend and put the finishing touch on an emotional night with a layup that helped him and Paul Pierce become winners in their return to Boston.
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.”
Andray Blatche scored 17 points and Alan Anderson and Andrei Kirilenko had 11 each as the Nets won for the 10th time in 11 games.
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.”
Heat 113, Spurs 101
In Miami, Chris Bosh scored 24 points on 9-for-10 shooting, LeBron James added 18 points and the Heat rolled past the Spurs in an NBA Finals rematch from last season.
Warriors 103, Trail Blazers 88
In Oakland, California, Stephen Curry had 38 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, and Golden State used a smothering defense to beat Portland.
Knicks 110, Lakers 103
In New York, Carmelo Anthony followed his 62-point game with 35 more against the Lakers.
Nuggets 125, Kings 117
In Sacramento, Ty Lawson scored 27 points, Wilson Chandler had 20, and Denver defeated the short-handed Kings for its second straight victory.
Pelicans 100, Magic 92
In New Orleans, Anthony Davis had 22 points, a career-high 19 rebounds and seven blocked shots.
Suns 99, Cavaliers 90
In Cleveland, Markieff Morris scored 27 points and Phoenix rallied from an 18-point halftime deficit.
Mavericks 116, Pistons 106
In Dallas, Dirk Nowitzki scored 28 points and Devin Harris had a season-high 14 for the second straight game.