The more Marcus Smart plays, the more he gets an NBA-level welcome.

The Celtics rookie stole the ball from Nets guard Deron Williams in the second quarter Friday – his first of four steals – and barely had turned up court when the Nets veteran drove him out of bounds with a shoulder to the chest.

Brandon Browner would have approved.

“I was (caught off guard), actually,” Smart said of absorbing the shot.

“I knew he was going to foul. I was trying to get the ball up to Kelly (Olynyk) before the foul, and my momentum was going (into Williams).”

Smart was in the midst of perhaps his best defensive stretch as an NBA player – a three-steal, three-assist third quarter – when he met Kevin Garnett on the floor. Smart had poked the ball away from Garnett, dove to beat him to the ball, and heaved a backward, overhead outlet pass to Jeff Green for the transition layup.

Garnett later joked that all he said to the rookie was “get your (butt) off the floor,” when in truth he was quite a bit more complimentary.

“He started laughing,” said Smart. “He said ‘good job,’ kind of joking around with me. It was crazy, because he was guarding me on an inbounds play, saying, ‘Show me what you’ve got.’

“It means a lot coming from him. He intimidates a lot of guys, and it shows I’m earning his respect. It’s phenomenal, an honor. Not too many people can say they played against a Hall of Famer. KG, and especially the work he did in Boston, his track record is phenomenal.”

 Brad Stevens just missed out on a chance to coach Garnett. But amid reports that this will be the final season for the former Celtic and current Nets center, the Celtics coach has another idea.

“My general thought is that he looks like he has too much energy to retire,” said Stevens. “Whether it’s talking to our players, talking to our bench, talking to his teammates, the passion which he brings to the game is top-notch. And I think you can learn a lot from a guy like that if you’re a young guy that’s never been around him.

“And you know, I told Jae Crowder when Garnett got introduced and everybody went nuts as they should, you know, if you play the right way here, people appreciate it. And obviously he did that and he led others to do that.”

Saturday’s game

RAPTORS 110, CLIPPERS 98: Kyle Lowry scored 25 points and Toronto’s reserves came up big in the fourth quarter of a victory over the host Clippers, ending Los Angeles’ eight-game home winning streak.

Jonas Valanciunas had 22 points and 11 rebounds for the defending Atlantic Division champion Raptors, who entered the day with a one-game lead over Atlanta for the best record in the Eastern Conference. DeMar DeRozan missed his 14th straight game because of a torn muscle in his left groin, and Landry Fields was sidelined for the third game in a row with a concussion.

Lowry shot 9 of 17, after averaging 9.3 points and 27.5 percent from the field over his previous four games against the Clippers. Terrence Ross scored 11 for Toronto.