NBA: Garnett Returns, Leads Celtics To 109-106 Win Over Magic
BOSTON – After a tumultuous weekend for New England sports fans, the return of Celtics all-star forward Kevin Garnett to the playing floor was more than a welcome sight. Out nine games with a calf strain, Garnett rejoined his mates Monday night, on Dr.Martin Luther King day, scoring 19 points (7-for-13 shooting) in a 109-106 victory over the Orlando Magic at TD Garden.
Garnett logged 31 minutes and grabbed eight rebounds in his first game back, but it was his huge steal on a potentially game-tying possession with 30 seconds remaining that sealed it for the Celtics.
Down three and looking for an equalizing jumper, Magic point guard Jameer Nelson ran a high pick-and-roll with Dwight Howard near the middle of the floor, got stuck going right in front of the Celtics bench, and had the ball stolen by Garnett as he tried to dump a shovel pass off to a wide open Jason Richardson for the three.
“I knew I saw the passing lane was there,” Garnett said. “I saw the lane and took the ball.”
Despite the return of their defensive anchor, the Celtics still managed to concede 106 points to the Magic, who lived (11 makes) and died (27 attempts) by the three all night long…..
Forward Ryan Anderson was (4-for-6) from behind the arc and Howard led the Magic with 33 points and 13 rebounds in 43 minutes.
“They’re just smart,” Howard said after the game. “They don’t let a lot of things get to them. And that’s how you’re supposed to play. You never see those guys arguing with each other, mad about little things. And those are things we need to learn as a team — just not get frustrated when teams make runs, just play through it.”
Ray Allen scored 26 points, Rajon Rondo was solid (10 points and 13 assists), and Paul Pierce (14 points) rounded out a balanced attack that saw six Celtics score in double-figures, shooting a sizzling 60 percent (42-70) from the field as a team.
“We look like a totally different team out there,” Celtics forward Paul Pierce said. “You can’t replace what Kevin gives to a ball club. … He raises everyone’s play when he’s on the court.”
The Celtics have won three straight following a 5-5 stretch that started on Christmas Day, when they lost to 86-78 to the Magic, snapping a 14-game winning streak the only other time the teams met this season.