BOSTON - Kevin Garnett didn't look injured when he nimbly sidestepped a pick, reached out to intercept a pass and help Boston steal a victory from Orlando.
The Celtics forward returned after missing nine games with a leg injury and scored 19 points, adding eight rebounds and a key steal with 16 seconds remaining on Monday night to help Boston beat the Magic, 109-106.
“These last two weeks have been dark days for me. Being hurt is not one of my favorite things,” said Garnett, who injured his right calf against Detroit on Dec. 29. “I’ve been doing a lot of things to get back here and get strong, and I was glad I was able to come out here and help my team out.”
Garnett went around Jameer Nelson and intercepted a pass intended for Jason Richardson, then threw the ball ahead to Ray Allen. Allen was fouled while trying to dribble out the clock.
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The former Seattle Sonics guard made both free throws — giving him 26 points for the game and 13 in the fourth quarter.
“We look like a totally different team out there,” Celtics forward Paul Pierce said. “You can’t replace what Kevin gives to a ballclub. He raises everyone’s play when he’s on the court.”
The Celtics have won three straight to follow a 5-5 stretch that started on Christmas, when they lost the Magic, 86-78, to snap a 14-game streak.
Dwight Howard had 33 points and 13 rebounds, and Ryan Anderson scored 16 points, including four 3-pointers, for the Magic. But Boston made 60 percent of its shots — a season-high for an Orlando opponent.
“We didn’t get any stops. There was never a point in the game where we stopped them,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said.
There were 10 lead changes in the third quarter and six more in the fourth as the Magic turned a six-point deficit into a 95-93 lead.
It was tied with 39 seconds to go when Pierce stepped in to draw a foul on Richardson before hitting a jumper; he converted the three-point play for a 107-104 Boston lead.
On the Magic’s next possession, Nelson tried to push the ball to Richardson but Garnett stepped around a screen and gathered in the ball.
“It just came down to the last second, and they made a good play and we turned the ball over,” Turkoglu said. “We didn’t play our game the way we wanted to from the start.”