6:30 PM ET, January 26, 2014
TD Garden, Boston, MA
WALTHAM, Mass. (AP) -- Paul Pierce might have trouble finding the visitors' locker room or controlling his emotions in his return to Boston.
Beating the Celtics? That should be the easy part.
"It's going to be a little weird," Pierce said.
The former captain spent all 15 of his previous seasons with Boston. Garnett was there for the past six. Together with Ray Allen, they led the team to its 17th NBA championship in 2008. They made it back to the finals in 2010, but lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the seventh game.
Quite a turnaround from the four straight seasons without a playoff series victory before they teamed up.
"The emotions probably will be high just because of the success that we had," Garnett said. "We were fortunate to be part of that whole transformation and some things are forever, man, and I'm happy to say that I'm part of that era."
A bygone era for the Celtics.
In full rebuilding mode, they have only five players who were teammates with Pierce and Garnett last season. The Celtics are 3-16 in their last 19 games.
"They're going through a lot of different changes, sort of like the change they went through when I was there before we got Kevin and before we got Ray," Pierce said. "They're still trying to find their identity."
The Nets struggled early, going 10-21. But they're 9-1 in their last 10 games with Pierce and Garnett playing important roles.
The teams met twice in the exhibition season, but Garnett sat out both games while Pierce played only the one in Brooklyn. Both played in the teams' first regular-season meeting, a Nets win in Brooklyn.
When they return to Boston, video tributes for both players are scheduled during timeouts or at the end of quarters.
Will Pierce be as emotional as former coach Doc Rivers was when he returned with his new team, the Los Angeles Clippers, following his departure from Boston after last season?
His reaction, Pierce said, "is something you can't script.
"It's going to be a lot of emotions. You play your whole life there. You won a championship there. The first time coming to the building (as a visitor), I never thought it would happen."
Garnett was a visitor during 12 seasons with Minnesota before joining the Celtics. His intensity quickly made him a fan favorite.
"I'm sure the emotions are going to be very high and I'll react accordingly," Garnett said, "but we're there to win a game and I hope this doesn't overshadow the game. It'll be good to see (Rajon) Rondo and some other personal friends that, obviously, don't play. Other than that, it's another game that I've got to be prepared for."
Rondo was in just his second pro season when Garnett arrived and became a mentor. Now the Celtics' point guard is the new captain and came back from major knee surgery in time to play against his former teammates.
"I talk to them all the time, text," Rondo, who has played four games since returning, said after practice Saturday. "I don't think it'll affect us at all. It's part of the process. This isn't the first time (ex-Celtics) have come back in this building."
First-year Celtics coach Brad Stevens doesn't know Garnett or Pierce. He does know what they mean to the franchise.
"Those guys did so many great things for this organization," Stevens said. "You're thankful for what they did."
They turned a struggling organization into a champion.
They were "the blueprint (for) what a professional is," Rondo said, "leading by example, just great role models."
But that's in the past.
"It's something I will never forget about," Rondo said, "but you're only credited with what you've done as of late."
For the Nets, that's been pretty impressive with their climb in the standings. Now comes a special touch, the return of Pierce and Garnett to applause from Celtics fans.
"It's going to be fun," Pierce said. "I don't know how I'll react, what emotions are going to be going through my head. Wait and see."
Last 5 Games
Team Stat Leaders
The Nets are a league-best 9-1 in January after entering the month 10-21. They are averaging 6.1 more points per 100 possessions during that stretch while allowing 5.2 fewer per 100. And Jason Kidd has his team playing at a much slower tempo - Brooklyn's averaging just 90.5 possessions per 48 minutes this month after entering that stretch at 94.6. The league average is 96.4.[+]
Nets This Season
Paul Pierce spent 15 seasons with Celtics and totaled 24,021 career points (both 2nd most in franchise history behind John Havlicek). Pierce is 1 of 3 players in Celtics history that played at least 10 seasons with the C's and then switched teams (Robert Parish, Jo Jo White).[+]
Kevin Garnett's last game in Boston as an opposing player came on March 4th, 2007. He registered a triple-double with 33 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists - but the Timberwolves fell in double overtime, 124-117. Garnett hit a 3-pointer from 28 feet to tie the game with 4.5 seconds left in the first overtime. He's averaging 22.6 points and 10.0 rebounds in his career against the Celtics, 1 of 3 players to hit for those marks against Boston dating back to the ABA-NBA merger (Karl Malone, Shaquille O'Neal).
The Nets and Celtics combined to score 69 points in the 1st half Sunday, the fewest combined points in the 1st half of any game this season.[+]
Fewest Combined Points in 1st Half - This Season
The Nets' 11 points in the 1st quarter against the Celtics is tied for their fewest in an opening period in the last 5 seasons (also had 11 on Dec. 27, 2011 against the Hawks).
Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett combined for 25 points against the Celtics. Including Brook Lopez who is now out for the season, The Nets had a star studded starting five on paper entering the season, but none of those players even finished in the top 5 on the team in scoring tonight against the Celtics.[+]
ESPN Stats & Information