AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Kevin Garnett left in the first quarter with a leg injury, and the Boston Celtics looked ragged without him in a 104-92 loss to the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night.
The Celtics lost for only the second time in 17 games, but they’re encountering some potentially serious adversity now. Garnett hurt himself on a dunk late in the first quarter, and although X-rays revealed no fracture in his right leg, he didn’t return. Boston was also without point guard Rajon Rondo, who missed his sixth straight game with a sprained left ankle.
Tracy McGrady scored 21 points for the Pistons, who led 45-37 at halftime and pushed the margin to 16 in the third quarter.
The Celtics were already struggling early on when Garnett dunked for his only two points of the game. He grimaced even before he landed and was careful to avoid putting too much weight on his right leg. After intentionally fouling to stop the game, he went down to the ground momentarily and appeared distraught when he got up, at one point covering his face with his hands. He was able to hobble off the court but was limping badly by the time he got back to the locker room.
Garnett had surgery on his right knee in May 2009 after missing all of that year’s playoffs.
This game was much anticipated because of Garnett’s dustup with Detroit’s Charlie Villanueva earlier in the season. After a Nov. 2 loss to the Celtics, Villanueva complained on Twitter that Garnett had called him a “cancer patient” during Boston’s 109-86 win. Garnett denied that, saying he had actually called Villanueva: “cancerous to your team and our league.”
Villanueva insisted Wednesday he wasn’t fixated on that feud. He picked up two quick fouls early, the second when he and Garnett appeared to bump each other gratuitously.
Villanueva headed to the bench, and Garnett’s injury eventually put a stop to that chippy matchup. Villanueva went scoreless in the first half, but contributed 11 points in the third quarter and finished with 14.
Tayshaun Prince added 18 points for Detroit.
Paul Pierce scored 33 points for the Celtics, but he was fighting a losing battle on this night.
Down 12, Boston began the fourth quarter with a lineup of Pierce, Jermaine O’Neal, Marquis Daniels, Von Wafer and Luke Harangody — not exactly the lineup the Celtics hope will take them back to the finals for the third time in four seasons.
Boston coach Doc Rivers was called for a technical foul early in the fourth, and a basket inside by Greg Monroe gave Detroit a 77-62 lead. The Pistons maintained a comfortable advantage the rest of the way.
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