BOSTON (Reuters) - Boston's Kevin Garnett made a game-clinching steal in his return to the court on Monday and Paul Pierce nailed the winning shot in the final minute to lift the Celtics to a 109-106 triumph over the Orlando Magic.
With Boston leading 107-104 and 15 seconds to go, Garnett stole an Orlando pass to send the Celtics to their third successive win.
"I felt good," Garnett told reporters in his first game since December 29. "Felt strong, so I was glad I was able to help my team get a win tonight."
Ray Allen led the Eastern Conference-leading Celtics (31-9) with 26 points.
Dwight Howard had a game-high 33 points and 13 rebounds for the Magic (26-15), who came up short in a rematch of last season's Eastern Conference finalists.
Orlando lost in six games in that post-season series but managed to get the better of Boston this season on Christmas Day.
Hedo Turkoglu, one of four new players acquired by the Magic through trades last month, twice gave Orlando the lead in the final five minutes where the advantage changed hands several times.
Allen made a three-pointer to put the Celtics up one with 2:15 left, and Garnett again restored a cushion with two free throws.
Magic point guard Jameer Nelson tied the game on a jumper with 51 seconds remaining before Pierce's stepped up.
Garnett's presence will help Boston inside as the Celtics are still without injured post players Kendrick Perkins and Jermaine O'Neal.
"We look like a totally different team out there with Kevin on the court," Pierce said. "His presence and everything goes far beyond the numbers."
(Reporting by Jahmal Corner; Editing by Peter Rutherford)