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Pierce, KG return; Nets trim Celts

  • Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce, center, formerly of the Boston Celtics, salutes the crowd during a tribute to him in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

    Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce, center, formerly of the Boston Celtics, salutes the crowd during a tribute to him in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

  • Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce, center, formerly of the Boston Celtics, salutes the crowd during a tribute to him in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

    Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce, center, formerly of the Boston Celtics, salutes the crowd during a tribute to him in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

  • Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Garnett, formerly of the Boston Celtics, waves to the crowd during a tribute to him in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

    Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Garnett, formerly of the Boston Celtics, waves to the crowd during a tribute to him in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

  • Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Garnett, formerly of the Boston Celtics, waves to the crowd during a tribute to him in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

    Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Garnett, formerly of the Boston Celtics, waves to the crowd during a tribute to him in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

  • Brooklyn Nets forward Alan Anderson (6) drives past Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo (9) in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

    Brooklyn Nets forward Alan Anderson (6) drives past Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo (9) in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

  • Brooklyn Nets forward Alan Anderson (6) drives past Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo (9) in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

    Brooklyn Nets forward Alan Anderson (6) drives past Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo (9) in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

  • Boston Celtics forward Brandon Bass (30), tries to drive past Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce, center, and Deron Williams (8) in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

    Boston Celtics forward Brandon Bass (30), tries to drive past Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce, center, and Deron Williams (8) in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

  • Boston Celtics forward Brandon Bass (30), tries to drive past Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce, center, and Deron Williams (8) in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

    Boston Celtics forward Brandon Bass (30), tries to drive past Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce, center, and Deron Williams (8) in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

  • Brooklyn Nets guard Shaun Livingston (14) vies for control of the ball with Boston Celtics forward Gerald Wallace (45) in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

    Brooklyn Nets guard Shaun Livingston (14) vies for control of the ball with Boston Celtics forward Gerald Wallace (45) in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

  • Brooklyn Nets guard Shaun Livingston (14) vies for control of the ball with Boston Celtics forward Gerald Wallace (45) in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

    Brooklyn Nets guard Shaun Livingston (14) vies for control of the ball with Boston Celtics forward Gerald Wallace (45) in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

  • Boston Celtics forward Gerald Wallace (45), tries to drive past Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce, center, in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Boston. Celtics center Jared Sullinger looks on at right. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

    Boston Celtics forward Gerald Wallace (45), tries to drive past Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce, center, in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Boston. Celtics center Jared Sullinger looks on at right. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

  • Boston Celtics forward Gerald Wallace (45), tries to drive past Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce, center, in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Boston. Celtics center Jared Sullinger looks on at right. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

    Boston Celtics forward Gerald Wallace (45), tries to drive past Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce, center, in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Boston. Celtics center Jared Sullinger looks on at right. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

  • Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce, center, formerly of the Boston Celtics, salutes the crowd during a tribute to him in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
  • Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce, center, formerly of the Boston Celtics, salutes the crowd during a tribute to him in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
  • Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Garnett, formerly of the Boston Celtics, waves to the crowd during a tribute to him in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
  • Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Garnett, formerly of the Boston Celtics, waves to the crowd during a tribute to him in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
  • Brooklyn Nets forward Alan Anderson (6) drives past Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo (9) in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
  • Brooklyn Nets forward Alan Anderson (6) drives past Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo (9) in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
  • Boston Celtics forward Brandon Bass (30), tries to drive past Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce, center, and Deron Williams (8) in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
  • Boston Celtics forward Brandon Bass (30), tries to drive past Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce, center, and Deron Williams (8) in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
  • Brooklyn Nets guard Shaun Livingston (14) vies for control of the ball with Boston Celtics forward Gerald Wallace (45) in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
  • Brooklyn Nets guard Shaun Livingston (14) vies for control of the ball with Boston Celtics forward Gerald Wallace (45) in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
  • Boston Celtics forward Gerald Wallace (45), tries to drive past Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce, center, in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Boston. Celtics center Jared Sullinger looks on at right. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
  • Boston Celtics forward Gerald Wallace (45), tries to drive past Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce, center, in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Boston. Celtics center Jared Sullinger looks on at right. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

BOSTON — Andray Blatche scored 17 points and the Brooklyn Nets beat the Boston Celtics 85-79 on Sunday night as Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett returned to their former home court for the first time since being traded last July.

The cornerstones of the Celtics’ 2008 championship team received video tributes early in the game with career highlights shown on the scoreboard. They didn’t have any highlights on the court until Garnett stole the ball from Rajon Rondo and dribbled ahead of the field for a layup that ended Boston’s last threat.

That put the Nets ahead 82-77 with 20 seconds left and secured their 10th win in 11 games.

The Celtics, losing for the 17th time in 20 games, were led by Brandon Bass with 17 points and Rondo with 13 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.

Pierce and Garnett scored just six points each, and Pierce missed eight of his 10 shots. But they received several standing ovations early in the game on the court where they won the team’s 17th championship.

During the video tribute to Garnett in a timeout with 2:25 left in the first quarter, he stood near his bench with a white towel draped over his head. He smiled, pounded the left side of his chest and waved several times to the crowd.

The tribute to Pierce at the end of the first quarter was longer and drew a louder ovation. He looked up at the video board above center court with a somber expression. The camera panned to him on the court showing him repeatedly mouthing the words, “thank you.”

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.

But the Celtics are in full rebuilding mode now and 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 remaining.

But the Nets scored the next five points on a layup by Andrei 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 points 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.

Joe Johnson then missed his shot and Rondo rebounded. He moved the ball upcourt only to lose it to Garnett, who went in for Brooklyn’s final field goal.

Pierce, the second-leading scorer in Celtics history, scored his first two points of the game on free throws 1:08 into the third quarter then hit his first field goal, a 16-foot jumper that capped a 10-0 Nets run 2:51 into the period. The Celtics, trailing 45-36, immediately called timeout.

Pierce, KG return

After the highlights were shown on the scoreboard and the two former Celtics acknowledged the latest in a series of standing ovations, the cameras panned up to the rafters, where the franchise has hung more banners than any other NBA team.

First shown was the list of retired numbers, where two blank spots should eventually be filled: with Paul Pierce’s No. 34 for certain and probably also the No. 5 that Kevin Garnett wore for his six years in Boston. Then the scoreboard showed the 2008 NBA title banner the two won in their first year together with the Celtics.

“That was our era. No one can ever take that away from us,” Garnett said after the game. “I think we will always bleed green as long as we play basketball. We’ll bleed green when we’re six feet under.”

Fans erupted in applause for the two former champions, who were traded to the Brooklyn Nets last summer when the Celtics decided it was better to rebuild without them than try for one last run with their aging All-Stars. There was a standing ovation when they came out on the court and another when they were introduced.

But the biggest cheers of all came when the players were recognized with separate scoreboard tributes: Garnett’s during a timeout late in the first quarter and Pierce’s in the break between the first two periods. Each time, the sold-out TD Garden was prepared, going silent in anticipation as soon as the video boards went black.

“This was a good homecoming, man,” Garnett said. “This was over the top. I had lumps in my throat.”

Garnett looked down at first, but eventually his eyes wandered to the video that showed his time in Boston from the press conference heralding the arrival of the New Big Three to his postgame yell after eliminating the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2008 NBA Finals: “Anything is possible!” He waved to the crowd, blew a kiss, thumped his chest and smiled at all of the fuss.

Pierce seemed more emotional, looking up from the bench as his NBA life was replayed on the screen. From the time the Celtics took him 10th overall in the 1998 draft until last summer’s trade, the player known as “The Truth” had spent his entire career in Boston. In addition to the on-court highlights, which included him receiving the ‘08 NBA Finals MVP trophy, Pierce’s video had several scenes of him reading to children and working in the community as well as a clip of Jack Nicholson shouting, “You can’t handle the truth.”

The former Celtics captain waved, raised both hands above his head and clapped and mouthed, “Thank you. I love you.” The crowd stood and cheered for the entire time between the first and second quarters, breaking into a chant of “Thank you, Paul Pierce!”

“As long as I’m in the league it’s going to be tough, because I know I’m going to have to come back to the Boston Garden,” Pierce said. “You put so much energy in one spot, and there’s always going to be memories.”

Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he intentionally called a quick play during the breaks so that his players could watch the tributes.

“Not much in my life is bigger than the next possession, but that is,” he said. “The only thing I can say is what I said on the bench, which is that this town gets it. You know that coming in, but you can feel it on nights like tonight. It was a great tribute to both guys, obviously extremely well-deserved.”

The crowd cheered everything Garnett and Pierce did early on, but it fell silent when Garnett stole the ball from Rajon Rondo and lumbered down for a breakaway layup that gave the Nets a five-point lead with 18 seconds left. Garnett finished with six points and three rebounds, and Pierce scored six on 2-for-10 shooting on the familiar parquet floor.

“This was the toughest game I ever had to play. Tougher than any championship game, Game 7. Tough to concentrate on what was at hand,” Pierce said. “You get showered with love the whole game ... every second of the game. I’m happy we got it over with and I can go back to playing basketball.”

After the game, the two players stayed on the court to hug their former teammates, coaches and training staff; a few thousand fans, many in Pierce and Garnett jerseys, remained to cheer Pierce when he finally walked off the court, throwing his wristbands into the crowd like he did when he played here.

“There’s no words that could really describe the shower of love here,” he said.

Pierce spent 15 years in Boston, scoring 24,021 points in a Celtics uniform — a total that trails only John Havlicek in the history of the NBA’s most-decorated franchise. A 10-time All-Star, Pierce is also in the team’s top seven in rebounds, assists, steals, games and minutes played.

Garnett came to Boston along with Ray Allen in 2007 to form a Big Three that won it all in their first season together. They returned to the NBA Finals two years later, losing to the Lakers.

But Allen left in 2012 and, with his stars aging and a stacked draft class coming out of college this year, general manager Danny Ainge decided it was time to rebuild. He allowed coach Doc Rivers to go to the Clippers and sent Pierce and Garnett to Brooklyn for a package heavy with draft picks.

The Celtics surprised early this season, but have tailed off.

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