Garnett and the Celtics hope for a much better ending in their home opener Wednesday night when they take on the Charlotte Bobcats, who begin the season struggling to put together a healthy lineup.
Boston opened the 2009-10 campaign with a 95-89 victory over Cleveland on Tuesday, putting its disappointing exit in the conference semifinals behind it while proving the Cavaliers will have some competition for the Eastern Conference title.
The Celtics took a 51-45 halftime lead and then held off a late Cleveland rally. After LeBron James(notes) missed a 3-pointer that would have brought his team within one, Paul Pierce(notes) hit a 15-footer to make it 89-83 and keep Boston in control.
Pierce led the Celtics with 23 points and 11 rebounds while Garnett scored 13 in his first regular-season game since March 25. Ray Allen(notes) added 16 points for a solid season debut by the Celtics’ Big Three.
“I liked what happened tonight because everyone contributed,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “It was as much of a team win as you can get.”
Garnett missed 22 of the final 26 regular-season games, then sat out the playoffs as Boston failed to defend its 2007-08 championship. The 33-year-old veteran, who is coming off offseason knee surgery, looked healthy Tuesday, playing 33 minutes while finishing with 10 rebounds and three blocked shots.
As Garnett was returning to the court, Glen Davis(notes), who replaced him in the starting lineup last season, was apologizing after a fight with a childhood friend led to a broken right thumb which will keep him out six weeks.
Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck told The Associated Press that Davis could be suspended for violating the contract he signed this summer, which would pay him about $6 million over the next two years.
While the Celtics feel a healthy Garnett will help them get back to the NBA finals, the Bobcats are hoping some early injuries won’t derail their season.
Charlotte was busy over the summer, bringing in Raja Bell(notes) and acquiring Tyson Chandler(notes) in a trade with New Orleans for Emeka Okafor(notes). The two were expected to start along side Raymond Felton(notes), Gerald Wallace(notes) and Boris Diaw(notes).
Preseason optimism was tempered this week with news that Bell suffered a torn ligament in his left wrist which may require surgery. Bell said he is only planning on sitting out the first week of the season. Surgery would sideline him up to four months.
“I’m going to (sit out) for another week to see if it continues to progress as it has,” Bell said. “If it doesn’t, then we’ll have to go back to the drawing board.”
Charlotte is also dealing with an injury to offseason acquisition Flip Murray(notes), who is out indefinitely with a stress reaction in his left shin, while Chandler, who underwent ankle surgery over the summer, isn’t ready to play 35-40 minutes, according to coach Larry Brown. Chandler, who was limited to 45 games last season, averaged 8.8 points and 8.7 rebounds with the Hornets.
“Health-wise I’m OK, but still the timing, getting my legs under me and getting back in rhythm, that’s the difficult part,” he said. “But I’m going to be fine.”
“I’m not afraid to play Gerald Henderson, but I don’t want his first NBA game chasing Paul Pierce and Ray Allen around right off the bat,” Brown said.
Brown’s team won a franchise-record 35 games last season, but still missed the playoffs. As the Bobcats try to get healthy, Brown be looking for Wallace and Diaw, acquired from Phoenix in December, to take charge. Wallace averaged 16.6 points and 7.8 rebounds last season.
Boston won two of three against Charlotte last season, but two of the games went to overtime - including one in double OT - and the one that ended in regulation was decided by five points. The Celtics have won seven of nine at home against the Bobcats.