NEW YORK -- Brooklyn Nets power forward Kevin Garnett was ejected from Monday night's 113-99 loss to the Houston Rockets after head-butting center Dwight Howard during their fight in the first quarter.
With 7:53 remaining, Garnett and Howard got tangled up as Howard was trying to catch a lob pass in the paint. After a foul was called, Garnett pushed Howard, and Howard pushed back.
Garnett then threw the ball at Howard, got in his face, and head-butted him. Garnett added a push, and Howard responded by throwing an open-handed slap that hit Garnett in the neck. The two were then separated.
Multiple players and security personnel tried to hold Garnett back, but he attempted to go back after Howard before being restrained and eventually leaving the court through the tunnel.
After the officials reviewed the play, Garnett received a personal foul, both players received technical fouls and Garnett was ejected. Garnett may face additional discipline from the NBA for his actions.
He was not made available to reporters after the game.
Howard responded "I don't know" twice during a 10-question session with reporters that lasted less than two minutes when asked his feelings on the fight.
"Doesn't matter. We won the game. That's what matters," Howard said. "We've got 82 games and the playoffs. I'll do my damage when it's time."
Howard was booed by the Barclays Center crowd each time he touched the ball after the fight.
"That's cool," Howard said. "As long as you win the game, that's all that matters."
Howard said it did take some time to refocus after the fight.
Rockets coach Kevin McHale didn't think much of the fight, though he may have been trying to protect Garnett, who he drafted in 1995, from further penalty.
"In the good old days, that was a play-on," McHale said. "Now, they throw people out. I didn't think it was that big of a deal."
Nets coach Lionel Hollins said that the officials told him that Howard was not ejected because he did not punch Garnett.
Howard spoke glowingly about Garnett before the game. Both players were drafted out of high school and became superstars.
"I mean, part of the reason I have the number that I have (No. 12) is because of him (Garnett used to wear No. 21)," Howard told ESPN.com. "I wanted to be just like him coming out of high school. When I was in high school I think I went to see him play one time, and it's just crazy because you watch the game, you don't see nothing special sometimes, but he'll end up with 25 (points) and 15 (rebounds). He's always been that intense guy that's gonna bring it every day at practice, and he really loves the game. And you can tell with his energy and effort. I think this is what, year 19? And he's still playing with the same intensity as year one."
Howard said Garnett is the best trash talker he's ever played against.
"Every time I play him he's always talking trash," Howard said. "He'll have you so upset by the end of the game. ... Most of the time, he's just talking to himself, but you just think he's talking to you, so it's crazy."
Howard said his favorite Garnett moment was the two of them jostling during the playoffs when Howard was in Orlando and Garnett was in Boston.
"I was hitting him in the stomach and squeezing his stomach, and he kept turning around and hitting me," Howard said. "So I kept doing it just to mess with him. And I didn't feel what he was doing -- like he was hitting me -- but I never felt it. So I just kept doing it, and then he did it, and then we kinda got into it. I was kinda like, 'What you gonna do about it?' Like it was crazy back-and-forth, but it's just fun trash talking. I'll never forget that."
Howard fondly recalled how Garnett reacted during the game after Garnett's friend and mentor, Malik Sealy, died in a car accident in 2000.
"He caught a rebound and dunked it in real hard and he pointed up to the sky," Howard said.