The Celtics  handed Kevin Garnett  a pretty nice welcome home present, delivering a 109-106 victory against the Magic at TD Garden on Monday night. Of course, the C’s All-Star forward — who returned for his first game of 2011 after missing nine games with a strained calf — had a hand in the win, totaling 19 points and eight rebounds.
A Paul Pierce  jumper plus the foul with 38 seconds left put the Celtics up 107-104, and a Garnett steal with 15 seconds to go led to a pair of Ray Allen  free throws that sealed the victory. Allen led six Celtics in double figures with 26 points as the Celtics improved to 31-9. Rajon Rondo  (10 points, 13 assists) notched his 16th double-double of the season, as the C’s avenged their Christmas Day loss in Orlando.
Dwight Howard  had a monster game for the Magic (26-15), finishing with 33 points and 13 rebounds.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
The return of KG: Obviously, any time a former Defensive Player of the Year returns to the lineup, it’s a bonus. When that guy also averages 15 points a night, it’s basketball’s version of a double rainbow.
In his return, Garnett showed no signs of the strained calf that kept him out of the last nine games. He was active on both ends of the floor — especially the defensive end — and saw plenty of playing time until foul trouble somewhat limited his minutes. He finished with 19 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two steals in 31 minutes.
Banging the (defensive) boards: Entering the game, the Magic owned the league’s fourth-best rebounding percentage because they have a guy named Dwight Howard who’s fairly tall, pretty strong and kind of good at grabbing boards (13.3 per game upon arriving in Boston). Led by the Big Three’s combined 18 rebounds, the Celtics out-rebounded the Magic on the defensive end, 24-21. However, the Magic grabbed 13 offensive boards to take the overall rebounding edge, 34-30. Still, not a bad showing against one of the NBA’s best boarding teams.
Rajon Rondo’d Jameer Nelson: Lost in the discussion of the recoveries of Garnett, Delonte West  and Kendrick Perkins  is any talk about Rondo’s resurgence after missing time for an ankle sprain. The Celtics point guard had a remarkably efficient night, recording 10 points (on 5-of-6 shooting), 13 assists (and only 1 turnover), four rebounds and three steals. His best pass of the night — a transition delivery to Allen that led to a pair of free throws — didn’t even result in an assist. Rondo’s counterpart, Nelson, had just nine points and five assists.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Hack-a-Howard: Whether Howard forced the issue or not, the Celtics went to this strategy early and often. In the first half alone, Howard took almost as many free-throw attempts (12) as the entire Celtics team (13).
The results were two-fold: 1) Howard made 13-of-18 foul shots for the game, which was a win for Orlando, considering he entered the game shooting just 58.9 percent; and 2) the Celtics’ bigs got into foul trouble, as Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal  and Luke Harangody all had three personals at the break.
Defending the perimeter: The Celtics ranked sixth in the NBA in opponents’ 3-point percentage, but on a few occasions they’ve failed to successfully get out and defend the 3-point shot. Orlando takes more treys per game than any other team. When the Magic are making them, they’ll be in the game. That was the case Monday night, as they shot 11-of-27 from beyond the arc. Ryan Anderson  killed the C’s, making 4-of-6 from downtown.
Technical difficulty: Doc Rivers  was all over the refs all night, picking up his fifth technical foul of the season (arguing a Howard walk that wasn’t called) and he very well could’ve gotten whistled for his sixth. Shockingly, Rivers’ archnemesis — referee Bill Kennedy — was not involved in the game. Rivers and Pierce are now tied for the team lead in technical fouls with five apiece.