NEW YORK: Joe Johnson and Andray Blatche had 21 points each Thursday, but it was Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in the spotlight as Brooklyn beat Doc Rivers’ Los Angeles Clippers 102-93 on Thursday.
Pierce had 10 points and Garnett scored just two, but the former Boston stars emerged with the victory over their former Celtics coach Rivers in their first meeting since Rivers took the helm of the Clippers this season.
“I’ll always have a special place for Doc,” said Garnett, who made a point of shaking Rivers’ hand and giving his old coach a quick hug before the game.
“I was shocked that Kevin came over before the game because he has a routine,” Rivers said.
Garnett said Rivers had been a mentor to him, not only on the court but in life.
“No one’s perfect, all humans have their flaws or whatever, but . . . shoot, he’s damn near close to it,” Garnett said of his former coach. “I’m just grateful he came into my life, and that I had that experience to him.”
Pierce, who came off the bench for a second straight game, said he and Rivers remained in touch.
“We talk, we keep in contact all the time, we text,” Pierce said. “So when you accomplish something special, a championship, I still keep in contact with a lot of my teammates that were on that championship team. It’s like a connection you have for life when you do something special like that.”
Pierce, Garnett and Ray Allen were the core of the Celtics championship team coached by Rivers in 2008.
Garnett and Pierce were traded to Brooklyn in July, a month after Rivers departed for the Clippers after nine years guiding the Celtics.
While the Clippers and Nets had met once already this season, neither Garnett nor Pierce played in that game.
Rivers said before the game that it would be “strange” to coach against the pair, but he expected it to be more fun than the emotionally draining visit to Boston on Wednesday night, when the Clippers emerged with a 96-88 victory over the Celtics.
“I know Paul and Kevin, and I know how competitive they are, so it will be a lot of fun,” Rivers said.
However it was the Nets, who have endured their struggles this season, who were laughing.
Blatche added nine rebounds and Deron Williams scored 15 points with five rebounds and four assists for Brooklyn, who won a third straight game for the first time this season.
Chris Paul led the Clippers with 20 points.
Rivers said he thought the game in Boston on Wednesday had taken a toll on his players.
“I told our coaches I was concerned about the game after my pregame talk,” Rivers said. “Just looking at the guys, it was pretty dead.”
Although the Clippers raced to an early 13-point lead, the Nets closed the first quarter on a 10-2 scoring run and took the lead for good in the second quarter.