BOSTON — Kevin Garnett stole the ball from his friend Rajon Rondo and put the finishing touch on an emotional night with a layup that helped him and Paul Pierce become 85-79 winners in their return to Boston.
“I knew they needed a 3 at that point and I just played the passing lane,” Garnett said. “I thought I was going to get caught, but I got it.”
That gave Brooklyn an 82-77 lead with 20 seconds left.
Pierce, the second leading scorer in Celtics history, and Garnett scored just six points each, and Pierce missed eight of his 10 shots, but the Nets still won for the 10th time in 11 games.
The Celtics, losing for the 17th time in 20 games, were led by Brandon Bass with 17 points. Rondo had 13 points, eight rebounds and eight assists a night after having dinner with Pierce and Garnett.
Pierce spent 15 seasons with the Celtics after they drafted him with the 10th pick in 1998. Garnett was obtained in a trade with Minnesota before the 2007-08 season and, with Pierce and Ray Allen, led Boston to their most recent championship.
Now in full rebuilding mode, the Celtics trailed 59-53 after three quarters, then allowed the first six points of the fourth as the Nets led by 12. Boston cut the lead to 73-70 on a 3-pointer by Chris Johnson, playing on a 10-day contract, with 4:37 left.
The Nets scored the next five points on a layup by Kirilenko, a free throw by Deron Williams and a jumper by Pierce. That made it 78-70.
With the score 80-72, Boston cut the deficit to three on a field goal by Bass and a 3-pointer by Rondo, two of only five current Celtics who played with Pierce and Garnett last season.
“We got caught up in (their return),” Bass said, “but for the most part we had a job to do.”
Joe Johnson then missed his shot and Rondo rebounded, giving Boston a chance to tie with a 3-pointer. He moved the ball upcourt only to lose it to Garnett, who went in for Brooklyn’s final field goal.
“He’s done it all year for us defensively,” Nets Coach Jason Kidd said. “He’s always in the right place at the right time.”
Pierce scored his first two points of the game on free throws 1:08 into the third quarter then hit his first field goal, a jumper that capped a 10-0 Nets run, 2:51 into the period.
“It was just a special thing for me,” Pierce said, “through my bad times, through my immature times, through my growing up, becoming a man for this city and winning a championship, everybody sticking with me. I would just like to tell them, ‘thank you.’”
NOTES: Garnett won the opening tip and got the ball back to Pierce. … The Celtics recalled center Vitor Faverani from the Maine Red Claws of the NBDL.