for this game

Garnett seals win against former team

Jan 26, 2008 - 4:52 AM By Tony Lee PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

BOSTON (Ticker) -- There were reminders at every turn of what the Boston Celtics gave away for Kevin Garnett. He ended Friday night reminding the Celtics why they wanted him in the first place.

Garnett posted a double-double in just over one half of play and, after suffering an abdominal strain in the fourth, emerged to make a big defensive play and secure Boston's 87-86 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Kendrick Perkins scored 21 points in a duel with friend and former teammate Al Jefferson, including a putback with 16.6 seconds remaining to cap the scoring, as Boston reached the halfway point of its season with an NBA-best 34-7 mark.

"This was a real emotional game because of the history between these two teams," Garnett said before offering no apologies for showing off his jersey after the horn. "I'm in Boston. I don't play for Minnesota anymore. We were at home, and it was a huge win."

Garnett was a 10-time All-Star in 12 seasons in Minnesota and is the franchise's all-time leader in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals. His transition to the Celtics following an offseason trade that sent five players to Minnesota has been seamless.

The Timberwolves, meanwhile, have plummeted to the NBA basement and sport a league-worst 7-35 record. However, neither team gained much separation Friday.

Garnett committed back-to-back turnovers - two of Boston's season-high 23 - midway through the fourth quarter and suffered the injury on the second one. Moments after he left for the locker room, Rashad McCants buried a 3-pointer to give the Timberwolves an unlikely 78-72 advantage, matching their largest lead of the night.

"If felt like I got sniped from the rafters or something," Garnett said of the injury. "I just had a sharp pain come from my stomach and I just wanted the doctors to look at it. I wasn't going to jeopardize my future and all that, but my philosophy has always been that if I can play, if I can run, if I can move, if I can blink, if I can wake up in the morning, I'm going to play."

Garnett returned with the Celtics trailing, 86-81, after Sebastian Telfair - one of the five traded for Garnett - made a scoop shot with just over two minutes left.

Paul Pierce made a pair of free throws and then had a putback on the Celtics' fifth offensive rebound of the possession to pull the hosts within 86-85 with 23.2 ticks remaining.

Just needing to get the ball inbounds, Minnesota showed its youth as rookie Corey Brewer was whistled for a five-second violation, giving Boston a chance to reclaim the lead for the first time since early in the fourth.

"That's what we're learning," Timberwolves coach Randy Wittman said of the critical inbounds play. "That's a part of the game people just don't understand, end of the game who can inbound the ball? It's a thing where you gotta read and have a clock in your head. We're working on it."

Perkins made Minnesota pay for its mistake when he followed Pierce's miss seconds later for the final margin.

"One thing about (Perkins) is he finds himself in the right position every time," Jefferson said. "That's what he is so good at, and that's what he did, and it hurt us tonight."

With one last try for their season-high third straight win, the Timberwolves were thwarted by Garnett, who knocked the ball from Telfair and into the backcourt as time expired.

Just moments after being doubled over in pain, Garnett left a lasting image in this one by sprawling to the floor to keep the loose ball from Telfair, then jumping to his feet to celebrate.

"I was able to count his dribbles and it went one, two, and I know he likes to crossover, so I just took a stab at it and got it, and just dove for it, and I knew time was running down," Garnett said.

The sight of a 6-11 forward stripping a 6-0 point guard was notable to Boston coach Doc Rivers.

"Very few (big men) could've done that," Rivers said. "I mean, he went from denial to the top, to helping on the deep with (Jefferson), to back out, getting his hands on the ball, and then he beat a guard to the ball and then he beat him to the floor, which is rare."

Garnett finished with 10 points - all in the first half - and 16 rebounds and Pierce chipped in 19, nine rebounds and eight assists. Ray Allen added 12 points on 4-of-18 shooting and committed five turnovers.

Telfair had 18 points and Jefferson and Ryan Gomes - another former Celtics involved in the swap - totaled 28 for Minnesota, which fell to 2-21 on the road.

Jefferson and Garnett were whistled for double-technical fouls in the third for jawing during a free-throw attempt by Perkins.

"He's got a big mouth, but you know that's Kevin Garnett," Jefferson said of the incident. "But I have mad respect for him. Mad respect for him. It was just competition, playing hard, nothing personal."

Jefferson had eight points in the first quarter and another former Celtic, Gerald Green, matched that total in the second as Minnesota stayed close, trailing at halftime, 50-47.

Pierce opened the second half with a 3-pointer for Boston's largest lead, but the Timberwolves used a 19-9 run to take a four-point lead and never trailed by more than one point thereafter.