BOSTON -- Kevin Garnett could have taken Wednesday night off if he had wanted.
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The Celtics celebrated milestone moments for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.But by now it's common knowledge that Garnett isn't wired like that. After suffering through consecutive games of shooting woes -- he entered Wednesday's game against the Toronto Raptors a combined 7-of-29 from the field over his previous two outings -- Garnett opted to work through his struggles and, in the process, ended up working his way further up the ladder of NBA history.
The the Boston Celtics' 112-88 thrashing of the Raptors on Wednesday, Garnett finished with 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting. But two of those points stood out a bit more than the others.
Early in the second quarter, Garnett put in a short bank shot off a feed from Courtney Lee and surpassed Jerry West -- the man featured in the NBA's logo -- for 15th all-time on the NBA's career scoring list.
"When [reporters] are telling me that I'm surpassing these people that I used for these different reasons, it's another form of feeling, it's another form of emotion," Garnett said. "So I don't know. I know someday I'll probably sit back and actually think about it and it'll probably mean something. But the one word I just keep thinking about, I'm just flattered, because without those people, those players, who've created our history, made our league what it is for young guys -- or younger guys like myself -- to follow in the path, there wouldn't be no Kevin Garnetts, there wouldn't be any of the yesteryears, so I'm flattered more than honored."
Garnett wasn't alone in Wednesday's milestone spotlight, though. Not long after he passed West, Paul Pierce inched past Charles Barkley for 20th all-time on the league's scoring list, which very well might have gone down as the true highlight of Garnett's evening. He alluded to the bond he and Pierce have shared since they were teenagers, and how there's a full-circle feeling seeping in at this stage of their careers.
"Paul and I have history and it's only right that we come in here and we make history together," Garnett said. "Thirteen, 14 [years old], tearing up his mom's living room, breaking vases, almost getting our [butts] whooped. Paul, first time I ever experienced Crenshaw on a Sunday -- for you all that don't know Crenshaw on a Sunday, Crenshaw on a Sunday is a big deal -- taking me out, being 15, 16 years old. Then finally being able to follow our dreams -- McDonald's [All-American game], having some duration together, trying to go to the same school, obviously going different paths, and then finally meeting up here in Boston, winning the championship, doing the things we've been doing since we've been here.
"Twenty-thousand points, now we're surpassing people we grew up mimicking and obviously idolizing. It's special. It's special to do it with a personal friend. Not just a teammate, but a real friend -- someone that knows you, knows your family, knows where you come from and vice versa, knows the things that motivates you and pushes you. I always tell people I have the greatest seat in the house watching one of the best players in NBA history put the ball in the basket every night. It's special to be able to do it with him."
Pierce, who scored 15 points in Wednesday's win, passed Barkley on a third-quarter free throw. Whereas Garnett was flattered and humbled by his milestone, Pierce took a bit more playful joy in passing the outspoken Barkley.
"I think I’m going to appreciate it because it’s Charles Barkley," Pierce joked. "He always talks a lot of smack about us. I’m happy that was him."
Pierce likely would have slid by Barkley during Tuesday's bout with the Charlotte Bobcats had he participated. But some strategic rest from Celtics coach Doc Rivers gave way to some historic fate on Wednesday, with two future Hall of Famers -- and close friends -- coming through with thorough reminders of just how impressive their respective careers have been.
"It’s an honor just being out there with Kevin," Pierce said. "It feels like at this point, Kevin is passing somebody every other night. It’s like every other game we’re standing up, giving him an ovation. It’s the same thing. It just tells you about his longevity, his hard work, him being one of the greats and being able to do it on a consistent basis.
"Kevin could accomplish everything that he ever wanted to do, because he has that will, that determination. For him to be where he's at is pretty remarkable because it’s more than just scoring. He’s tops in so many other categories. It’s unbelievable. He’s a once-in-a-generation player. Not a lot of people get a chance to play with those types of players, and I’m fortunate that I’ve been able to play with him these last five or six years. It’s been an honor to watch him every single day, how he prepares, how he comes to work every day, his approach, it’s something we can all learn from."
Added Rivers: "When you pass a Barkley and a West, those names, that's pretty impressive. I mean, Kevin just passed The Logo. When you think of it in those terms, it's pretty remarkable what he's doing."
A night off? Don't make Garnett laugh. Sure, he'll probably opt for one or two more before the season is complete. But while an argument could have been made for resting him on Wednesday, passing West was a stark reminder that Garnett's career has been built on the drive that pushed him to suit up against Toronto. It's that same drive that now has him reaching new milestones with what seems like each passing game.