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The abdominal strain that kept Kevin Garnett out for nine games at midseason was probably the best chance for the rest of the league to catch the Celtics.
Now he's back.
Garnett had 20 points and 16 rebounds, his best game since returning, to lead the Celtics to a 98-88 victory over the Atlanta Hawks Sunday.
"He's all the way back," Celtics forward Paul Pierce said. "Did y'all watch the game tonight?
"When he's going to the basket, inside and outside, dominating the rebounds: That's the Kevin Garnett I like to see."
Garnett shrugged it off.
"I had a decent night," he said.
Pierce scored 17 of his 30 points in the pivotal third quarter, when the Celtics scored 13 straight points to take the lead for good. Ray Allen scored 17, and Kendrick Perkins had 11 points, a season-high 12 rebounds and a career-high six assists to help the Celtics win their fifth consecutive game.
"In the third quarter, the difference was Paul Pierce. He just took over," Perkins said. "I'm used to that now, but when I first got here, I was like, 'Man!' Now, it's just what Paul does."
Point guard Rajon Rondo had six points and eight assists one day before the Celtics are expected to sign backup Sam Cassell, who was waived last week by the Clippers. The Celtics play the Pistons on Wednesday in a matchup of the top two teams in the East.
"People are expecting that to be the Eastern Conference finals matchup," Garnett said. "It should be a fun game."
Josh Smith had 20 points and nine rebounds, and rookie Al Horford had 14 and 11 for the Hawks. P.J. Brown, who was signed Wednesday by the Celtics , wasn't in uniform again.
This program aired on March 3, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.
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