BOSTON -- Kevin Garnett bent over near center court, taking a moment before walking off the floor.
There was still 8:24 left on the clock, but his night was over. Garnett was ejected for a Flagrant 2 foul against the Indiana Pacers Tyler Hansbrough.
"I was firm," said Garnett following the game. "I didn't mean to get him in the face like that. I was actually trying to swipe the ball, but it was a physical game and they called it the way it was. Part of the game."
Garnett received a standing ovation from the TD Garden crowd as he exited for the locker room. If he had played the entire game, his performance Friday night would have received an applause anyways for his contributions in the Celtics 94-75 win.
Moved back to the starting center position on Friday night, Garnett scored 18 points (8-16 FG, 2-2 FT) and grabbed seven rebounds in only 24 minutes.
Even though Garnett's numbers have dropped slightly this season (down to 14.8 points and 7.0 rebounds from 15.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game last season), the Pacers knew what to expect from the 36 year old.
"They're still a very talented team," said starting center Roy Hibbert. "They're gritty. Paul (Pierce) and Kevin have been through years, so you respect their game even though they've gotten a little bit older. To tell you the truth, just push up a little bit more, just try to make them score over me. At the same time, I know what Kevin's capable of. He's still a great player."
The Celtics have struggled the entire season when Garnett has been on the sidelines. Now in his 18th season, he is averaging 29 minutes per game. Doc Rivers has to be able to rest his veteran leader without squandering a lead. On Friday, the Celtics maintained a 23-point lead after Garnett's ejection.
"We're a really bad team if we couldn't hold a lead in the fourth quarter, and they didn't have their starters in either," said Rajon Rondo. "But nevertheless, I don't want to discredit our bench. Courtney (Lee) played great for us tonight, LB (Leandro Barbosa) came in and gave us some energy, and (Jared Sullinger) Sully fouled out but he played big in the stretch when he was in the game. It was a collective team effort tonight. We played great as a team and we've got to continue to build on this win."
Garnett missed Gino Time, the Celtics on-court celebration during blowout wins. For those who looked forward to see him dancing on the sidelines, he pointed out he still enjoyed the victory in the locker room.