BOSTON – Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce received an “unbelievable” welcome from Celtics faithful in their return to Boston on Sunday – and departed with a win for their current NBA team Brooklyn.
Both players were sent to Brooklyn as part of a draft night trade last June, but the Celtics and their fans showed Sunday that their contributions in Boston haven’t been forgotten.
Neither had a stellar night, each scoring six points in the Nets’ 85-79 win that was accompanied by an outpouring of affection from fans in the stands and video tributes.
“This was over the top,” Garnett said of the welcome. “The one word that comes to mind is just ‘unbelievable.’
“I didn’t expect anything like that for myself, it shows the type of organization this is – the appreciation of the organization for you.”
The Nets were leading 80-77 when Garnett picked off a Rajon Rondo pass intended for Brandon Bass with 20.9 seconds remaining.
Garnett raced down the floor for an uncontested layup that helped Brooklyn notch victory – their 10th win in their last 11 games.
“I knew they needed a three at that point, I just played the passing lane,” Garnett said. “I thought I was going to get caught there for a minute, but I put the ball in front of me and got a layup.”
Andray Blatche led the Nets with 17 points off the bench. Alan Anderson and Andrei Kirilenko added 11 points apiece.
But the spotlight was on Pierce and Garnett, who said they struggled to focus on the game as they saw old friends and felt the outpouring of affection from team staff and fans.
Pierce spent 15 seasons as a Celtic and Garnett joined him for six of those years. Both were integral parts in helping Boston win its 17th NBA title in 2008.
Pierce said playing at TD Garden as a visitor was something “I never thought would happen.”
When the day came, Pierce said, it was “the toughest game I ever had to play – tougher than any championship game, any game seven.
“This game was just so hard to really focus and concentrate on what was at hand,” said Pierce, who instead found himself thinking “about the time, the friendships the relationships” he experienced in Boston.
“I’m happy we got it over with and we can go back to playing basketball,” Pierce added.
“I’m glad we came in here and got a win,” he said.
But it was clear Garnett still treasures his time in Boston, and the welcome he received reinforced that feeling.
“People always say to players you can be too loyal,” he said. “I don’t believe that. I believe a city like Boston is worth it. Tonight is just the epitome of that.”
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