MINNEAPOLIS – His first game in a Timberwolves uniform in nearly eight years was 30 minutes away, and Kevin Garnett was bouncing off the walls in the locker room he called home for 12 years.
Minnesota owner Glen Taylor pulled him aside and tried to calm him down.
“This is your night, Kevin,” Taylor told him. “Just enjoy it.”
And it was.
Garnett made an ear-splitting return to Minnesota and his Timberwolves overcame a jittery start to beat Washington 97-77 on Wednesday night.
Garnett, reacquired in a trade from Brooklyn last week, had five points on 2-for-7 shooting with eight rebounds and two blocks in 19 minutes in his first game for Minnesota since 2007.
“I’ve been back before and I never paid attention to how much love is here still for me because I’m too busy being focused on the game,” Garnett said about his previous games at Target Center with Boston and Brooklyn. “And tonight it was just over the top.
“I did not know the city missed me like this. I don’t think that you can ever wish or ever think the city loves you like this. But to see it is reality and I’m very appreciative.”
Standing ovation at the start. Serenaded at the finish. A storybook beginning to what Garnett has called a fairy tale ending to his career.
Kevin Martin scored 28 points and Andrew Wiggins had 19 for the Wolves, who trailed by 15 early after Garnett’s stirring reintroduction.
Marcin Gortat had nine points and 15 rebounds for the Wizards, who have lost five in a row and 10 of their last 12. John Wall had five points on 2-for-10 shooting and 10 assists, and Paul Pierce missed the game with a bruised knee.
“We’ve got to find a way to get out of this slump, man,” Garrett Temple said.
Nikola Pekovic had 15 points and 13 rebounds for Minnesota, but the night belonged to KG, the charismatic superstar who put this woebegone franchise on the map before getting traded to Boston in 2007.
Garnett made his first appearance on the court about 20 minutes before the game when the rest of the team took the floor, and the fans who have missed him for so long remained standing for the next 25 minutes.
The lights went out and a goose-bump-inducing video was played showing Garnett highlights, whipping the crowd into a frenzy as Kanye West’s “Homecoming” blared on the speakers. Garnett sat on the bench with his head down the entire time, but popped up as his name was announced and a thunderous ovation rained down from the 19,856 in attendance.
“Sending chills through my body watching the (hashtag)Twolves announce KG to the home crowd during intros!” tweeted LeBron James, who made his own homecoming to Cleveland this season.
He went through the routine he made famous here, butting his head on the basketball support, knocking knuckles with his teammates as he walked to the scorer’s table and dusting those sitting in the area with a chalk toss.
All the energy may have been a little too much for the Wolves early. They missed 13 of their first 14 shots and fell behind 18-3.
“I think how we started the game shows how shocked we were,” Ricky Rubio said. “We were like, ‘Damn, this is big.’ “
Heat 93, Magic 90 (OT)
In Orlando, Luol Deng had 21 points, Dwyane Wade added 18 and Miami rallied to beat the hosts.
Rockets 110, Clippers 105
In Houston, James Harden had 21 points, Corey Brewer scored 13 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter and the Rockets snapped a six-game skid to Los Angeles.
Hawks 104, Mavericks 87
In Atlanta, Dennis Schroder had 17 points, the Hawks took the lead with a 13-0 run in the third quarter and went on beat Dallas, with the Mavericks playing without suspended guard Rajon Rondo.
Monta Ellis led Dallas with 19 points.
Hornets 98, Bulls 86
In Chicago, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had 18 points and 12 boards, Mo Williams scored 17 points and Charlotte beat Chicago after the Bulls learned Derrick Rose will have yet another knee surgery.
Kings 102, Grizzlies 90
In Sacramento, Rudy Gay scored 28 points, DeMarcus Cousins added 16 points and nine rebounds and the Kings beat Memphis.
Suns 110, Nuggets 96
In Denver, Brandon Knight hit two key late 3s and had 19 points to help Phoenix snap a five-game losing streak.
Pelicans 102, Nets 96
In New Orleans, Quincy Pondexter scored a career-high 25 points and the Pelicans beat Brooklyn for their third straight victory.
Celtics 115, Knicks 94
In Boston, Evan Turner had his first career triple-double with 10 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists and the Celtics pulled away with 20 straight points in the second half.
Bucks 104, 76ers 88
In Milwaukee, John Henson scored 21 points, Michael Carter-Williams had seven points and eight assists in his Bucks debut, and Milwaukee built a big early lead against the point guard’s former Philadelphia teammates.
Lakers 100, Jazz 97
In Salt Lake City, Jordan Clarkson scored a career-high 22 points and Los Angeles erased a double-digit deficit in a comeback victory over Utah.
Trail Blazers 111, Spurs 95
In Portland, Wesley Matthews scored 31 points, LaMarcus Aldridge had 11 points and 13 rebounds, and the Trail Blazers beat slumping San Antonio.