for this game

Garnett, Celtics debut with win over Raptors

Oct 6, 2007 - 9:19 PM ROME (Ticker) -- Kevin Garnett and the new-look Boston Celtics were the "Big Ticket" overseas.

Garnett had 19 points and 16 rebounds as the Celtics unveiled their much-hyped superstar troika with a 89-85 victory over the defending Atlantic Division champion Toronto Raptors in the preseason opener for both clubs on Saturday afternoon.

Paul Pierce had 21 points and Ray Allen added 10 for the Celtics, who played their first game since re-tooling their entire roster in an attempt to make a run at a title in the weak Eastern Conference.

Boston, which has not won an NBA championship in 22 years, finished with the second-worst record in the league last season. Expectations had been lowered for the Celtics, who also have not been past the first round of the playoffs since 2002-03.

But this campaign, Garnett is joined by sharpshooter Allen, who was acquired in a draft-day trade with the Seattle SuperSonics for No. 5 overall pick Jeff Green. The duo joins captain Pierce to make Boston one of the frontrunners in the East.

Garnett, a 10-time All-Star, brings instant credibility to the 16-time world champion Celtics. And it showed as the squad toured Rome and met with Italian dignitaries throughout the week.

But Boston's performance on the court drew the most attention.

Garnett made his presence felt right away with an emphatic three-point play just three minutes into the game. The former MVP drove the baseline past hometown hero Andrea Bargnani and threw down a reverse slam for an 11-5 lead.

It was an early statement by Garnett, who unleashed his trademark glare in a game that was played with surprising intensity early on.

A close game throughout, Boston led for most of the fourth quarter but had its advantage cut to 88-85 on Juan Dixon's layup with 1:59 left. But Celtics rookie Gabe Pruitt made a clinching free throw with six seconds left to provide the final margin.

T.J. Ford had 15 points, Bargnani added 13 and All-Star Chris Bosh had 12 and nine rebounds for the Raptors, who will look to build on their first playoff appearance in five years.