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Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce both made history on Wednesday during the Celtics’ 112-88 home victory over the Toronto Raptors, passing two Hall of Famers on the NBA’s career scoring list. Garnett passed former Laker Jerry West for 15th, while Pierce knocked Charles Barkley out of the top 20. The milestones further solidified the two veterans’ own cases for the Hall – the highest scorer eligible for induction who is not in Springfield yet is Gary Payton, at number 29.
Garnett was the first to reach his mark against the Raptors, finishing a pick-and-roll with Courtney Lee with a shot off the glass for his third and fourth points of the night early in the second quarter. That gave him 25,193 career points, one more than West. KG finished the game with 12 for a total of 25,201, just 78 less than another HOFer, Reggie Miller. Interestingly, Miller and Garnett are the only players in the top 20 with career scoring averages below 20 points per game.
Cracking the top 20 on Wednesday was Pierce, who did it from the free throw line with 8:05 to play in the third period. His first tied him with Barkley at 23,757 career points, and the second gave him the milestone. The captain would score 15 in the game, and his new career mark of 23,763 is 605 shy of 19th-ranked Allen Iverson.
Both Garnett and Pierce should continue to climb the career lists before they retire, which could happen after the 2013-14 season. KG is averaging 14.8 points and 7.8 rebounds this year, and will likely surpass Miller’s scoring mark before the end of the month. That would give him a shot at Alex English should he decide to return for one more season, and leave him very close to Celtics great John Havlicek (26,395) at number 12 by the time he retires.
Garnett is also ranked 10th in career rebounds with 13,802. If he plays next year, he could overtake both Walt Bellamy and Nate Thurmond and end his career right behind Robert Parish, who had 14,715. KG is 16th in steals, but he’s unlikely to climb any higher than that, since he has Kobe Bryant ahead of him and would need 128 to pass Isiah Thomas. With his single block at Oklahoma City on Sunday, he tied Theo Ratliff for 18th with 1,968, and one more season would put him ahead of Larry Nance for 17th.
Perhaps more surprising is the fact that Garnett is 50th all-time in assists at 5,206, although he’s averaging just 2.2 this year. By the end of this season, he’ll approach fellow big man Karl Malone (5,248), and could retire ahead of Hall of Fame point guard (and current mayor of Detroit) Dave Bing at number 42. Finally, KG’s longevity has him within 11 games of tying Moses Malone for 10th in all-time games played, and one more full season would see him surpass the 6th-ranked Miller’s mark of 1,389.
The Truth is set at number 20 in scoring for the rest of the season, but in 2013-14 he could pass not just Iverson, but also Patrick Ewing, West and Miller, which would leave him 16th supposing that Garnett plays one more year and Dirk Nowitzki, who is currently 18th, reaches the top 15. Pierce is also 29th in career steals with 1,573, just 10 shy of Terry Porter. At his current average of 1.2 per game, he should crack the top 20 by the end of next season. The captain is tied with Ben Wallace for 64th place with 1,088 games played, and one more season could leave him just outside the top 30.
The Jet has played just two fewer career games than Pierce, and is tied for 66th with Clyde Drexler in that category. More impressively, he’s the NBA’s fourth all-time three-point shooter, having converted 1,891 treys. Advancement in this category, however, is difficult, as five of the top six players are still active (Pierce is sixth), and Miller is secure in second place with 2,560.
Terry also recently cracked the top 50 in steals with 1,377, just one less than Dominique Wilkins had for his career. He needs 100 to tie Dennis Johnson for 40th, which he could do in 2013-14. If he continues to play beyond next season, he could very well reach the top 30, surpassing none other than current coach Doc Rivers, who had 1,563.