BOSTON — Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce both will call the Basketball Hall of Fame “home” some day. But first, the two Boston Celtics greats have more work to do, and more NBA lists to climb.
On Wednesday night, during a 112-88 blowout of the Toronto Raptors, Garnett cracked the top 15 of the league’s all-time scoring list by passing Jerry West, while Pierce went past Charles Barkley and busted into the top 20.
On the same night.
It seemed fitting.
“It’s an honor just being out there with Kevin, it feels like at this point Kevin is passing somebody every other night,” a laughing Pierce said after scoring 15 points in less than 24 minutes. He got the night off Tuesday, and the Celtics suffered a dreadful loss to the lowly Bobcats in Charlotte. “It’s like every other game right now at home, we’re standing up and giving him an ovation.
“It just tells you about his longevity, his hard work and being one of the greats and continuing to do it on a consistent basis. For him to be where he’s at is pretty remarkable because it’s more than just scoring; he’s tops in so many other categories that it’s unbelievable. He’s a once-in-a-generation type of player.”
Said Garnett, who had 12 points and seven rebounds but was needed for only 20 minutes: “I say I have the best seat in the house to watch one of the great scorers of all-time.
“Paul and I have history, and it’s only right that we come in here and make history together. … It’s best to do it with a personal friend. Not just a teammate but a real friend. Someone that knows you, knows your family, knows where you come from and vice versa. Knows the things that motivate you and push you. … It’s special to do it with him. “
Added Pierce: “Not a lot of people get to play with those types of players, and I’m fortunate that I’ve been able to play with him these last five, six years. It’s been an honor to watch him each and every day.”
As far as his own climb into the top 20, Pierce, asked if he can appreciate it now rather than looking back later, said, “I think I’m going to appreciate it because it’s Charles Barkley; he always talks a lot of smack about us, so I’m happy that was him.”
Celtics coach Doc Rivers said of the milestones, “I think they’re tired of it. It just feels like every game we’re clapping. It feels like one of those two, or Jet (Jason Terry), somebody’s passing somebody.”
The Celtics, ending a two-game losing streak (both ends of a road trip) and moving to 15-6 since losing guard Rajon Rondo for the season, led by nine in the half. The Raptors, losers of seven of their last nine, got as close as four in the third quarter. They also trailed by as many as 26.
None of it surprised Pierce.
“You could feel the mood on the plane. We were all (ticked) with the way we played last night,” he said. “It didn’t matter who was going to come into the gym; you could have put San Antonio out there, Oklahoma (City), Lakers, whoever the top teams are out there, I think we would have put this type of effort and probably won by the same amount with the way we played last night.”
Seriously, though, it was just the Raptors.
The Celtics, who went to the foul line a season-high 35 times (and made 28, matching a season high), won their 10th straight at home. Boston (35-29) has beaten Toronto 10 straight times at TD Garden. The Celtics are 2-0 overall this season against the Raptors (25-40).
“We kept putting them on the line, we kept having defensive miscoverages … that’s what killed us,” said Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan, who had 17 points in the loss.
Celtics guard Jeff Green had 20 points, six rebounds and three assists, leading a 58-point effort by the Boston bench that included 12 from Jordan Crawford and 12 points and seven assists from Terry.
Rudy Gay, a game-time decision because of a back problem that KO’d him from the previous game, had 19 points, just under his average in 17 games since being traded to Toronto. He also had seven rebounds and four assists in 32 minutes.
NOTES: Former Celtic Sebastian Telfair was ejected after picking up two technical fouls, one called with 2:58 left in the third quarter and the other called during the break between the third and fourth. … The Raptors announced that Andrea Bargnani will miss the rest of the season with a right elbow strain, this elbow injury not connected to the first one that cost him time earlier this season. Bargnani, who was averaging 12.7 points and 3.7 rebounds per game and last played March 8, is slated to make $22 million over the next two years, making him a candidate for an amnesty buyout. … Rivers opened his pregame comments with, “Say it ain’t so, Wes,” talking about Wes Welker leaving the New England Patriots for the Denver Broncos. … The Celtics host the Bobcats in a quick rematch Saturday night, while Charlotte plays at Toronto on Friday night before coming to Boston. The Raptors then host the Heat on Sunday, and Miami then comes to Boston (Ray Allen Return II) on Monday night. … The Celtics picked up two technical fouls in a span of 34 seconds of the first quarter, the first for a defensive three-second violation and other on Terry for complaining about a call. They got another defensive three-second call later.