Final, Nets win : Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett returned to Boston and got their win on a night they won’t forget for a long time.
Pierce and Garnett each finished with six points, but stats weren’t what mattered. The TD Garden crowd got multiple opportunities to show their heroes how much they appreciated them, including a pair of emotional video tributes.
Brandon Bass led the Celtics with 17 points and Rajon Rondo came close to a triple-double with 13 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in the loss. Andray Blatche led the winners with 17 points.
Fourth quarter, :07.9, Nets 83-79: Try to keep up here. Rondo led a horrible possession and turned the ball over after dribbling around for 15 seconds. After KG scored a fastbreak layup, Bass hit a short jumper. The Celtics sent Joe Johnson to the line, where he hit one of two.
Timeout, Celtics, who are still alive, but barely.
Fourth quarter, :35.6, Nets 80-77: How about this? Rondo drilled a three with the shot clock running down, then Joe Johnson airballed an 18-foot try. Celtics ball with a chance to tie or go for a quick two. Rondo and company might just ruin Pierce and Garnett’s big night after all.
Fourth quarter, 1:19, Nets 80-74: The Nets have gone into their prevent offense, which might be a bit premature. A big turnaround jumper by Bass pulls the Celtics within six points and a turnover by Pierce gives the ball back to Boston with a chance to pull within one shot.
Fourth quarter, 2:38, Nets 78-70: The Nets are showing that they have closers and the Celtics don’t.
After a transition three by Chris Johnson pulled Boston within three points, the Nets reeled off five unanswered, ending with a midrange jumper by Pierce. It’s crunchtime, and the Nets are rolling with Pierce and Garnett while the Celtics are rolling with Johnson.
That’s a lopsided matchup, no matter how well the D-Leaguer is playing.
Fourth quarter, 5:52, Nets 71-67: With Pierce and Garnett on the bench, the Celtics have decided to show their former leaders what they learned from them.
Rondo, Bass, Wallace and Johnson hit big shots, with Humphries supplying a big turnover on defense, as the Celtics have battled back to make it a two-possession game midway through the fourth quarter.
Fourth quarter, 8:42, Nets 67-56: Jared Sullinger has been frustrated for the last couple of weeks and his mood is especially sour tonight. Having zero healthy hands will do that.
Sullinger, who dislocated his right index finger and is battling soreness in his left hand, is just 1-for-7 from the floor with three fouls. He has blocked three shots and nabbed four rebounds, but overall his performance has been forgettable.
As a whole, the Celtics aren’t looking so hot, either. Phil Pressey, who is usually solid defensively for a rookie, has been all over the place, and not in a good way. He lost Deron Williams — twice on the same play — around screens before Williams drained a baseline jumper over the flailing Pressey. That’s just how the early minutes of this fourth quarter have gone for the Celtics.
End of third quarter, Nets 59-53: Chris Johnson’s 10-day contract expires after this game. The Celtics have the option to re-sign him to another 10-day contract or to let him walk.
At this point, if they let him go, they could be losing one of their better players.
It says a lot about the Celtics that they could add a D-leaguer in the middle of the season and he could immediately be one of their more impactful players. But that’s what he has been and he’s playing like it again tonight. The Dayton product has five points, four rebounds and a steal to help the Celtics stay within striking distance.
Johnson’s obviously not one of the Celtics’ best players, he’s just playing like it the last four games. That doesn’t mean he won’t be out the door come Monday.
Third quarter, 2:35, Nets 56-49: Jeff Green finally gets his first basket, but neither he nor the Celtics are playing all that well, still. After a fastbreak steal-and-dunk put him on the board, Green added a 3-pointer and is now 2-for-10 from the field with six points, including his free throw in the first half.
Brandon Bass has been surprisingly solid, given how much he was influenced by Garnett and how honest he was about the respect he still holds for his former teammate. Bass is 3-for-3 from the field and is tied with Rajon Rondo for the team high in rebounds, with six.
Gerald Wallace is once again playing capably. The nominal starting shooting guard has nine points and five boards. Wallace, who has been a terrible free-throw shooter this season, even has a pair of freebies from the charity stripe to his credit.
Third quarter, 9:09, Nets 45-36: It took more than 24 minutes of game time for Pierce to crack the scoring column, but he finally did — and it may have sparked a deadly run for the Nets.
Pierce canned a pair of free throws a minute into the second half, which kicked off a 10-0 run to push Brooklyn into its largest lead of the game. Alan Anderson hit a couple of 3-pointers in between Pierce’s free throws and a step-back jumper by the former Celtics forward.
Fans didn’t seem to know whether to cheer or boo Pierce’s shot, which they watched him make hundreds of times over the years.
Halftime, Nets 35-34: The end of the first half brought something old and something new.
Jason Kidd tried to give Celtics fans a taste of the old glory by calling an isolation for Paul Pierce to end the half. Brad Stevens wasn’t interested in playing along, though, telling Brandon Bass to take a foul to force Brooklyn to reset its offense.
As for something new, Rajon Rondo closed the scoring for the Celtics by draining a 3-pointer from the right wing to pull Boston within a point.
We’re talking about individual plays — one of which didn’t even generate a basket — because offense has been sort of hard to come by. Both teams are shooting worse than 33 percent from the field and Andray Blatche is the only player in double figures, with 12 points. The Celtics have some especially scary-looking numbers, such as their 12 turnovers and 3-for-14 mark from beyond the arc.
Kevin Garnett and Pierce aren’t exactly having triumphant comebacks so far, either. Pierce is scoreless, having missed all three shots he took in the first half. Garnett had four points in a quick spurt, but he also was on the wrong end of a Gerald Wallace fastbreak dunk.
Rondo has been a bright spot, at least, for the Celtics. In just 14 closely monitored minutes, he has eight points, four assists and five rebounds (plus four turnovers).
Second quarter, 5:07, Nets 27-23: Meanwhile, this game is atrocious.
Since the Celtics 8-0 run to begin the game, they’ve been outscored 27-15 and their deficit is only growing. Mirza Teletovic, who is just two days removed from a 34-point performance, came off the bench firing. He’s taken five shots overall, four of which were threes, and though he’s only hit two shots for a total of five points, its clear that some of the Nets’ bench players are more locked in.
By the way, Jason Terry is in the game. There wasn’t a highlight video for him. Must have gotten lost in the mail.
Second quarter, 8:47, Celtics 21-18: These fans aren’t done. With Pierce on the bench, chants of “Paul P.!” and “Thank you, Paul Pierce!” rang out from the crowd while the game was going on. This has to be humbling for Pierce.
As for the game, Andray Blatche is having another of his Celtics-killer games. He has 10 of Brooklyn’s 18 points, so he’s clearly immune to all the misty eyes and emotional moments.
End of first quarter, Celtics 17-11: Emotional tributes aside, this hasn’t been much of a game. The teams went 10-for-35 with five turnovers combined in the first quarter.
In a way, it’s nice of them not to let a good game get in the way of the real story tonight.
In a rousing highlight reel that included Jack Nicholson yelling, “You cant handle the truth!” Pierce’s 15 years as a Celtic played out to roaring applause from the TD Garden fans. Pierce, like KG, raised his hand to thank the crowd. He also threw in a little bow and applause back.
First quarter, 2:25, Celtics 14-11: Jeff Green is doing a tremendous job of reminding Celtics fans how good Pierce was in Boston. Green’s doing it by being bad, though.
Green is 0-for-5 from the field and has one point, after splitting a pair of free throws. The Celtics obviously took a bit of a step back legacy-wise with Green, but the comparison is even more stark with Pierce on the court as a reminder of what was.
In non-game news, Garnett’s tribute was played on the video board during the last stoppage. It started with his trade and ran through his six years as a Celtic. The TD Garden crowd hated it.
Just kidding. They loved it, obviously, from the sounds of it. KG acknowledged the crowd with his favorite song, the BeeGees’ ditty that usually accompanies “Gino Time,” with a smile and several waves.
Stay tuned for Pierce’s tribute, which is upcoming later in the game.
First quarter, 8:04, Celtics 8-0: Brad Stevens was worried about the emotions overwhelming his team. Maybe Jason Kidd should have been more worried.
The teams missed their first seven shots combined before Gerald Wallace broke the ice with a 3-pointer. Since then, the Celtics have done a much better job of calming their nerves. The Nets have taken six shots and missed all of them, some of them badly. Pierce’s first shot was well short. Garnett’s was well long.
Brandon Bass has a jumper off a feed from Rajon Rondo, who also has a three-point play. Along with Wallace’s trey, they’ve accounted for all the scoring thus far.
6:37 p.m.: There hasn’t been a whole lot to cheer for at TD Garden this season, so the fans got a half-season’s worth of roars out of way tonight.
After booing the other three members of the Nets’ starting lineup, the crowd erupted with applause for Garnett and nearly took the roof of for Pierce when each was announced.
The noise wasn’t limited to Pierce and KG, though. It’s extremely loud in here for the Celtics’ player introductions. It feels a lot like it did during some of the playoff games when Pierce and Garnett were still here, wearing Green.
6:18 p.m.: Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce have made their appearances on the parquet floor. They jogged out with their Nets teammates — KG coming on last — to a loud, but not earth-shattering, applause.
Honestly, it’s not that weird seeing them in different uniforms. It might seem weird to some of you, and that’s fine. But it’s just not that strange seeing any player, even one who’s spent his entire career previously with one team, in a new team’s jersey.
Welcome to modern professional sports.
5:39 p.m.: Be careful not to overlook Vitor Faverani’s return tonight, too. (OK, go ahead and overlook it if you want.)
The 25-year-old rookie center makes his return to the Celtics after a stint with the Maine Red Claws of the D-League that lasted a matter of hours. Faverani played for the Red Claws on Saturday night, recording 13 points, seven rebounds, three assists and one blocked shot in 26 minutes in an effort to get him some game action.
He was recalled to the Celtics on Sunday morning. No word on how long his video tribute will be.
5:07 p.m.: In case you’re eager for some pregame words from Pierce and Garnett, sorry. Neither is expected to address the media before the game.
Pierce did a brief TV interview with ESPN, but that was all. Garnett just walked into the building, less than 90 minutes before tip-off. He also didn’t directly address the throngs of reporters standing around in the hallway at TD Garden.
It’s unclear how Pierce and Garnett will conduct postgame interviews. Hopefully, they agree to come into the relatively large, microphone-equipped media room and don’t try to cram the many bodies here to cover their return into the broom closet the Celtics call a visitor’s locker room.
4:54 p.m.: Brad Stevens never coached Paul Pierce or Kevin Garnett, obviously — it was the fallout from that trade, after all, that led to Stevens being hired in the first place — but he admitted he would have loved to, if given the chance.
Yet with Pierce and Garnett making their first trip back to Boston since the trade that sent them to the Nets last summer, Stevens had other things on his mind heading into the game.
Players like Jared Sullinger of Avery Bradley, who were once teammates of Pierce and Garnett, may have a more emotional reaction to their return. Stevens understands. He just doesn’t want his team to get caught up in the emotion of the moment.
“Guys will be excited to play in games like this,” Stevens said. “There’s a lot of attention being paid, rightfully so, on their players, specifically Paul and Kevin. They’ve earned all of that. I don’t see it being a negative in any way. The tough part of today for us is, Brooklyn’s playing exceptionally well and they’ve kind of found their groove.”
In non-reunion news, the Celtics will adjust their starting lineup to battle the Nets’ small-ball group. Smaller lineups have helped Brooklyn thrive since All-Star center Brook Lopez’ injury. The Nets are 9-1 in their last 10 games thanks to those groupings, as well as the play of Shaun Livingston in the starting unit, Deron Williams off the bench and Joe Johnson everywhere.
Brandon Bass will start at power forward and Jared Sullinger will slide to center, with Kris Humphries headed to the bench. Gerald Wallace and Jeff Green will remain with the starting five as a mutant 2/3 combo.
The projected starters appear below.
8 a.m. ET: The applause will be long and loud. The misty eyes will be many. Oh yeah, and there will also be a game going on.
Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett will make their return to Boston on Sunday for the first time as members of the Brooklyn Nets. The timing could not be better. Rajon Rondo is finally back in uniform for the Boston Celtics and the Nets, after months of lurching along, are playing the type of basketball everyone expected out of them in the first place.
The Celtics (15-30) host the red-hot Nets (19-22), winners of nine of their last 10 games, with more than just the game on their minds. The team is expected to show two different video tributes to Garnett and Pierce, who helped capture the franchise’s 17th NBA championship. The fans will get a chance to show their appreciation, then turn around and root against their former heroes for the next two to three hours.
It should be fun.
Join us for updates and analysis from TD Garden during the game, which tips off at 6:30 p.m. ET.