Pierce, Rondo, Garnett

It’s easy to forget about the lackluster basketball with so much emotion in the air as Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce made their return to the TD Garden, playing against the Boston Celtics. They didn’t play very well, but got the win and the love of their former home fans.

The Nets came away with the 85-79 win as Garnett provided the big play in the end to seal the victory. With the Nets leading by 3 (80-77), Rajon Rondo was trying to pass the ball to Brandon Bass on the perimeter, but Kevin Garnett intercepted it and ran all the way for an easy two that sealed the win for the Nets, improving to 20-22, winning their fifth in a row and 10 out of the last 11.

I knew they needed a 3 at that point and I just played the passing lane. I thought I was going to get caught, but I got it.

I had lumps in my throat and I tried to focus as much as I could. I’m happy we got it over with and I can go back to playing basketball. It was, by far, the hardest day that I had to focus. It’s a good homecoming.

After welcoming back Doc Rivers earlier this season, there was no doubt fans (and players) had a lot more feeling invested in the return of Garnett and Pierce, who combined to score 12 points on 5-of-16 from the field in an emotional night for them and everyone else.

It was also about showing the stark differences in expectations, not to mention talent, from previous years to this one. Rajon Rondo is the only familiar face on the C’s at the moment from the now closing era, giving his best game since coming back from injury (13 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists). It still wasn’t enough to make the Celtics look more than decent at their best, shooting 37.8% from the field and turning the ball over 16 times.

In games such as this it’s usually the players who are able to block the emotional weight of the event that manage to excel. Andray Blatche was that guy for the Nets, and not for the first time this season. He scored 17 points off the bench, one of only three Nets players in double figures (Alan Anderson and Andrei Kirilenko scored 11 each).

The defense-first approach keeps on working very well as Deron Williams sticks to his bench role. He had 7 points and 7 assists in 34 minutes while Shuan Livingston started (playing 22 minutes), scoring 9 points and adding 8 rebounds, continuing to be quite a menace thanks to his length and defensive abilities.

The bottom line? It was an ugly game, the only reason the Celtics managed to stay within touching distance. They combined to score 69 points in the 1st half Sunday, the fewest combined points in the 1st half of any game this season. The Nets shot a very poor 39.3% from the field, but thanks to their key defensive plays and overall having a lot more talent and experience than the messed up Celtics, they kept their winning streak alive.

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