for this game

Garnett makes triumphant return to Minnesota

Nov 22, 2008 - 5:01 AM By Jim Beilby PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

MINNEAPOLIS (Ticker) -- Kevin Garnett didn't have to do too much to make a triumphant return to his former home court.

In his first game at the Target Center since being traded last offseason, the All-Star forward registered 17 points in just 29 minutes to lead the Boston Celtics to a 95-78 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday.

Minnesota's crowd gave Garnett a thunderous ovation as he made his long-awaited return to the arena. The Celtics visited the Timberwolves last season, but Garnett was injured and could not play.

"It was good to feel the love. Even better to win in a place that you used to play," Garnett said. "But it was a good feeling. There was a lot of good energy in the building. I was blessed that the people came out and showed their love. So thank you to the fans."

Unlike most of his 12-year tenure in Minnesota, Garnett no longer has to carry the bulk of the offense on his shoulders. A balanced scoring attack has become one of the Celtics' calling cards - and it was part of the reason they marched to an NBA championship last season.

That was the case once again on Friday, as Garnett led a balanced scoring attack featuring six players in double figures as the team improved to 11-2.

"We're a work in progress," Garnett said. "I think that our defense is ahead of our offense right now. Offense is about rhythm and we're working on getting that rhythm night in and night out. But for the most part, we're playing hard and playing great defense. We're not perfect."

The Celtics recovered from a sluggish start to take over for good in the third quarter. Garnett scored eight points and Rajon Rondo collected 11 his 13 as Boston outscored Minnesota, 35-10, in the third quarter.

The Celtics' suffocating defense held the Timberwolves to just 2-of-17 shooting in the period.

"I thought in the first half we played to their level," Garnett said. "In the second half, Doc (Rivers) told us to get back to Celtic basketball and do the things that we know how to do and especially do defensively what we wanted to do. We never looked back. Once we get a lead we like to, as we say, put on the gas, and the second unit came in and finished it off well."

Minnesota was able to stay in the game early thanks to the play of its reserves. The bench sparked an 8-0 run to begin the second quarter, during which the Timberwolves held the Celtics to just 14 points and forced 12 turnovers. They held a 39-36 advantage at halftime.

"I was really worried about this game," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "Minnesota just won last night and in the first half we couldn't make a shot. Everything was hitting the rim and it looked like we were running in mud."

Al Jefferson - who was part of last year's trade, getting dealt from Boston to Minnesota - led all scorers with 23 points, but was held to just four rebounds. Sebastian Telfair added 13, all but two of which came in the fourth quarter - long after the result was decided.

"At halftime, I did feel good looking at the shooting percentage - we were 27 percent, I think - and we were still up three," Minnesota coach Randy Wittman said. "I thought we would come out (in the second half) and shoot the ball better than we did."

While the Celtics improved to 3-0 against Minnesota since the Garnett trade, this was the most-lopsided victory yet. They won both meetings against the T-Wolves last year, but they came by a combined three points (87-86 on January 25 and 88-86 on February 8).

Since the blockbuster trade, Boston and Minnesota have gone in opposite directions. The rebuilding T-Wolves are 24-68 since dealing Garnett, while the Celtics are 77-18 with an NBA title.

"They have three of the best players in the league on that team," Minnesota rookie forward Kevin Love said. "They've got the pieces together on their team and a great coach. They really turned it on in the second half. We need to keep getting better. We are young and that's a tough team there. If they are going to turn it on and have a hot second half, there's not really much you can do."