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Celtics Outlast Magic in Garnett's Return

The Big Ticket came up big
The Big Ticket came up big

It had been nine games since Kevin Garnett last took the court with his teammates, but you wouldn't know it.

Garnett made his first start since injuring his right calf on Dec. 29 against the Detroit Pistons and finished with 19 points and eight rebounds in the Celtics dramatic 109-106 win over the Orlando Magic -- a game in which featured 26 lead changes and 18 ties.

He was very active out on the court for the 31 minutes he was out there, and you could see the team feed off his energy and defensive presence.

"I mean I said to somebody else that we look like a totally different team," Paul Pierce said. "Just with Kevin on the court, and also people you can't replace what Kevin gives to a ball club. He doesn't always show up with his numbers but his presence and his feel for the game and everything he does for this team goes far beyond the numbers and you see it tonight.

"We look like a team who is ready, who is energized, who is locked in, and you know that's the culture he's brought here since day 1 he's been here and its infectious. He raises everyone's play when he's on the court."

For Garnett, it was important to not return too soon, and to wait until he felt he was able to go 100-percent out there. For that reason, he held off playing on Friday against Charlotte.

"So I got a couple days of practice in, and I asked Paul right away, who's probably the most truthful, the most blunt, and I've known him since I was 13 or 14 and I value his word," Garnett said. "I asked him and he told me I looked very good, and I told him I felt strong. You know I've been doing a lot of things to get back here and get strong, and I'm glad I was able to come out here and help my team out."

"I was concerned about his wind; I wasn't concerned about his health at all," Coach Doc Rivers said.  "I knew one of the things we said: he wasn't playing until he was 100%.  But yesterday, we went an hour and after about ten minutes he was - he looked like he needed an oxygen tank.  And that's why I took him out early in the first quarter; I thought he was struggling then.  And then he came back and he felt great. So, yeah, he surprises you all the time."

Without Garnett, there's a slim chance the Celtics beat the Magic last night. It was Garnett barking out orders down the stretch of a tight game, and it was Garnett who came up with the key steal with just seconds left on the clock to seal the deal for the Celtics.

"Listen, they all talk, but no one talks like Kevin," Rivers said. "He's the best talker in the league.  When you're talking defense.  And I think Perk (Kendrick Perkins) may be the second best.  So, it is clear tonight - and I didn't think we had a great defensive night; I thought we were actually average - but it was clear the communication, especially those last four possessions, you could hear it.  He was calling their sets out.  He's a defensive coach on the floor."

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