The Celtics ran out to another 20 point lead in the first half in their return to the Garden last night, and it appeared to be business as usual for the green. However, the Houston Rockets fought back to make this one a game, taking the lead in the second half before Kevin Garnett came to the rescue for the Celtics, helping them to a 97-93 win last night. KG had 26 points and 9 rebounds in the win for Boston.

Steve Bulpett has the Celtics riding Garnett to victory in the fourth quarter. Garnett, in turn, says he fed off the crowd for energy in the first game back from the West coast. Marc J. Spears has more on the Celtics jumping on KG’s back (in Paul Pierce’s case, literally) and being carried to victory down the stretch. Bill Doyle says that the Celts were tired last night – with the exception of Garnett. Jeff Howe has the Celtics getting off to the fourth best start in league history with the win. Lenny Megliola has Garnett rescuing the Celtics on an otherwise lackluster night for the green.

Dan Shaughnessy notes that even at 27-3 and the top story in the NBA, the Celtics are still taking a backseat in Boston, though that may not be the case for much longer. Tony Massarotti seems to think that the 7-1 deal to get Garnett was certainly worth it for the Celtics. Mike Fine says that the Celtics should’ve silenced their remaining critics with the 4-0 West coast swing. I’m sounding like Dennis Green with the title of my piece in the Metro today: They are who we think they are. Over on the BSMW Full Court Press, Mike Brilliant has a Celtics report card for last week. Howe says that Garnett has provided a lift on the defensive end as well.

Spears’ notebook has Lamar Odem saying that he didn’t think his hit on Ray Allen Sunday night was that excessive. Bulpett’s notebook has Doc Rivers pleased that Scot Pollard used all of his fouls last night. Doyle’s notebook has Detroit’s Flip Saunders edging out Doc Rivers for NBA Eastern conference coach of the month in December. Howe’s notebook has 3 as the magic number for the Celtics.

Patriots

The Herald conducted their own poll for NFL Coach of the Year, contacting the voters for the award to find out how they cast their ballots. According to the results they received, Belichick will earn the award when it is announced next weekend. Karen Guregian goes through the results, along with comments from those who participated. Most felt that SpyGate didn’t factor into the equation, but some felt strongly otherwise, and refused to vote for the coach they felt was “cheating to win games.”

Mike Reiss has veteran coach Dan Reeves coming in with a glass half full view of the Patriots defense, which appeared to bend a bit against the Giants in the regular season finale. Christopher Price takes a thumbnail look at the three possible opponents for the Patriots in their first playoff game. Shalise Manza Young concludes her look at the Patriots season by going through the last eight games of the campaign.

Jim Donaldson likens Randy Moss and Wes Welker to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Buddy Thomas concedes that Tom Brady deserves the NFL MVP, but says if the Patriots lose in the playoffs, he’s not better than Peyton Manning. Douglas Flynn notes that there were plenty of unsung heroes in the Patriots march to 16-0. Sarah Green notes that these Patriots have already made history.

Reiss’ notebook has the Falcons and Ravens seeking permission to interview Josh McDaniels for their vacant head coaching jobs.

Misc

Steve Conroy has David Krejci vowing to put the lessons learned from his AHL experience into practice in the NHL. Conroy’s notebook and Barbara Matson report on the Bruins trading Brandon Bochenski to the Anaheim Ducks for defenseman Shane Hnidy.

Rob Bradford has Bobby Kielty awaiting word on a Johan Santana trade, as it would impact whether he will be back with the Red Sox next season or not.

Jeff Jacobs looks back at 2007 and ahead to 2008 in the sports world.

Mark Blaudschun says there is no clear #1 in college football.

Frank Dell’Apa reports on Boston College’s 81-52 win over Longwood last night.

Clea Simon has a little more on the Entercom/Nassau deal falling through.

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