Garnett: "I didn't mean to get Hansbrough in the face

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Garnett: "I didn't mean to get Hansbrough in the face

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.

Freeman, Coleman lift Falcons past Saints, 45-32

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Freeman, Coleman lift Falcons past Saints, 45-32

NEW ORLEANS - Devonta Freeman practically wore out the Superdome turf with one long gain after another, Tevin Coleman wouldn't be denied near the goal line and the New Orleans Saints hardly looked like the team that made an emotional homecoming nearly 10 years ago to the day.

Cheers turned to boos, and many fans filed out early.

Coleman rushed for three touchdowns, Matt Ryan passed for two TDs and Deion Jones returned an interception 90 yards for a score to help the Atlanta Falcons beat the winless New Orleans Saints 45-32 on Monday night.

"It was real fun. Everybody was doing their job and everybody was playing for each other," Coleman said. "Everything clicked, and we got it done. It's a real big win for us to beat this team here."

The game coincided with New Orleans' celebration of the 10-year anniversary of the Saints' memorable return to the Superdome on Sept. 25, 2006, 13 months after Hurricane Katrina. But there would be no reprise of New Orleans' dominant and emotional 23-3 triumph over Atlanta a decade ago.

The Saints' depleted defense struggled to slow Freeman, who rushed for 152 yards and caught five passes for 55 yards. Coleman also was effective in the passing game out of the backfield, with three receptions for 47 yards to go with his 42 yards rushing.

"We have to stop the run better," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "They were over 200 yards in situations where you knew the run was coming, even at the end of the game."

Ryan finished with 240 yards passing for Atlanta (2-1), which did not turn the ball over and moved into sole possession of first place in the NFC South.

Drew Brees put up his usual big numbers - 376 yards and three TDs passing - and hit tight end Coby Fleener seven times for 109 yards and a TD. But Brees' tipped pass that resulted in Jones' TD return early in the fourth quarter gave the Falcons a 45-25 lead that proved too much for New Orleans to overcome.

Hayes knows he's a good player, wants to silence the critics

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Hayes knows he's a good player, wants to silence the critics

BOSTON, Mass. – There’s a long way to go toward a complete resurrection from last season’s misdeeds, but Jimmy Hayes made a nice little statement that he’s learned some lessons in Boston’s preseason debut. The Bruins lost the game, 3-2, in the shootout to the Columbus Blue Jackets, but Hayes scored one of the two goals for the Black and Gold as one of the few veterans in a very youthful lineup for Boston.

The Hayes goal was a nice give-and-go with Jake DeBrusk at the end of a nice transition play in the second period, and was the highlight of a night playing on the right wing with DeBrusk and center Austin Czarnik. The score and a team-high four shots on net for Hayes represent a good start for what he hopes is a gigantic rebound season after last year’s disappointment.

Clearly Hayes heard some of the unflattering chatter about him on sports talk radio and otherwise last season, and may even understand how his difficult season in his home city of Boston -- whether he actively expressed it to him or not -- might have been a factor in his buddy Jimmy Vesey ultimately choosing New York over Boston.

It appears the former Boston College standout is looking to change the conversation in Boston. 

“Yeah, sure am. I’ve got a lot to come out here and…[there were] a lot of comments about myself, but I know I’m a good player. I got to this level for a reason,” said Hayes, who dropped from 19 goals and 35 points with the Panthers to 13 goals, 29 points and a career-worst minus-12 for the Bruins last season.

“To be able to play at the NHL level and continue to play at that level on a consistent basis is what I expect out of myself. I do it for myself and our teammates, and to help our team win. I’ll continue moving forward.

“It’s funny being the old guy on the line. It’s nice to see those young guys and see how excited they are, and how excited I am to get back out there. That’s what I said to the guys, they still have the jitters and they still have them for the first preseason game. It shows that these guys want it and it’s been a lot of fun skating with those guys. They’ve got a lot of speed and to keep pushing the pace. Trying to keep up with them has been a lot of fun.”

There is still a long way to go for the 26-year-old winger, and his willingness to stick around the danger areas on Monday night was a welcomed one for a Bruins team that needs his 6-foot-6 body in front of the net. Hayes paid the price with stitches and a fat lip after taking a Dalton Prout high-stick to the mouth in front of the Columbus net that went uncalled on a Bruins PP at the end of the second period.

That’s all part of the big man’s game on the ice, however. It’s also the kind of battle and determined fight that Hayes will need to show much more consistently in his second season with the hometown Bruins if he’s truly looking to bounce-back from last year’s mediocre performance.