Celtics head coach Doc Rivers smiles as he watches his...

Celtics head coach Doc Rivers smiles as he watches his team play against the Denver Nuggets. (February 10, 2013) Credit: Getty Images

Kevin Garnett didn't even look out on the court once he peeled his warm-ups off, put talcum powder on his hands and stepped on the sticky tape to get his sneaker traction in order.

Garnett headed straight for enemy territory, determined to give a little public sign of affection to the guy he still speaks to frequently. He extended his right hand and gave Doc Rivers a handshake and a hug, quickly exchanging pleasantries with the Clippers coach -- something Paul Pierce couldn't do at the same time as Garnett since he came off the bench for the second straight game.

Unlike in the matchup between these two teams in Los Angeles last month, when Garnett and Pierce were given the night off on the tail end of a back-to-back, the Boston Reunion was finally on Thursday night. Garnett, Pierce and Rivers were all on the same court again, and there was little doubt this was a weird experience for all three.

"We talk so much," Rivers said before the game. "Listen, I haven't coached against them in quite a while, so that'll be different. That'll be strange . . . I know Paul and Kevin, and I know how competitive they are. So it will be a lot of fun."

Pierce came off the bench for a second straight game, a way Nets coach Jason Kidd figured would help ease him back into the mix after he missed three games with a fractured bone in his right hand. It was only the fifth time Pierce hadn't started in 1,119 career games and it marked the first occasion in his career in which he came off the bench in consecutive games.

Kidd wouldn't commit to the move being a long-term thing, but is loving what he's seen from the veteran forward, praising his mentality.

"I think that just shows his character and being a pro," Kidd said, "because we are asking Paul to come off the bench, and he probably hasn't come off the bench since his CYO days or his youth basketball program. He's always been a starter, he's always been a focal point of the team. But as you saw in the Boston game, I thought he was great coming off the bench and being the leader. He gave us a great spark even though in that stretch he may not have scored. But he was making the right decisions.

"It just gives us another leader with that second group, and shows his character and he's willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win."

Rivers is sure Pierce will flourish as a reserve.

"I don't think he cares one way or the other," Rivers said. "Paul is a ballplayer. He doesn't care. If I had asked Paul to come off last year, he would've. So Paul just wants to play basketball, and he's going to play it for more than this year. He's a professional scorer. He's still trying to get healthy. He's not 100 percent healthy. I don't think Paul minds one way or the other."

Rivers also suggested Garnett's struggles so far in Brooklyn stem from him not being able to get into much of a rhythm because of the amount of on-court time he's been getting. "His minutes are down," Rivers said. "I just think when you play low minutes, your numbers aren't going to be what they were. So I think Kevin has a lot of value to this team."

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