K.G. steals spotlight in Celtics win

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:26 AM ET

ROME -- Most NBA pre-season games are about as electric as two twigs being rubbed together.

Last night's contest between the Raptors and their Atlantic Division rivals Boston Celtics at Rome's sold-out PalaLottomatica was not a typical pre-season game.

There was real electricity in the air, undoubtedly because of the presence of hometown boy Andrea Bargnani of the Raptors. But also because the Celtics started a lineup that included NBA superstar Kevin Garnett, and his two almost-as-celebrated teammates, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce.

Indeed, the standing ovation afforded to Garnett, when introduced to the crowd of 11,118, was as loud, and probably longer, than the one given to Bargnani.

"It was a great atmosphere," Garnett said. "A great basketball atmosphere."

Generally, coaches use pre-season games to gain a measure of how well their team is coming together out of training camp. But last night's match was decidedly intense, with both clubs playing hard.

In the end, the Celtics prevailed 89-85.

"Our coach (Doc Rivers) wanted us to go extremely hard, as if it was a real game," Garnett said. "I prepared myself to be very aggressive"

Boston GM Danny Ainge has thrown down the gauntlet in trading away the team's future to bring the Big 3 together.

"I think Boston is looking to establish something quick here," said Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo.

"They're probably anxious to see what they have because, until you throw that ball out in a competitive situation, you have no idea."

Colangelo admitted he was much more pumped to be facing the Celtics than any other team this pre-season.

All-star forward Chirs Bosh finished the game with 12 points and nine rebounds.

More importantly, his left foot, which bothered him most of last year, was fine.

"I'm going to try to play in all the pre-season games, so when the season comes, I'll be full swing, unlike last year when I was forced to take some time off when I hurt my foot," Bosh said.

"I feel like I'm going in the right direction."

If Bargnani was nervous playing in his hometown, he certainly didn't show it, calmly sinking three long-range baskets in the first quarter, finishing with 13 points overall, as was as four rebounds and two steals in only 15 minutes, his time limited because of foul trouble.

"I think I played a bit better the last I played when In was in Rome with the national team," he said, referring to an exhibition loss to the Greek team this summer.


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