Celtics overwhelm 76ers to go up 2-1
PHILADELPHIA – The first two games of the NBA Eastern Conference semifinal series between the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers were wrestling matches.
Game 3 was a track meet, and the Sixers couldn’t keep up.
Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo combined for 74 points Wednesday night, as the Celtics rolled to a 107-91 victory.
Garnett scored 27 points, Pierce 24 and Rondo 23 as the Celtics took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven set and reclaimed the homecourt advantage. Game 4 is scheduled for Friday night in Philadelphia.
“We wanted to send a message to these guys tonight,” said Rondo, who also handed out 14 assists, “and I think we did a good job of that.”
Boston coach Doc Rivers said his team “did it the right way” at the offensive end, shooting 51.9 percent from the floor, turning the ball over just seven times and outscoring the younger, faster Sixers 21-16 on fast-break points.
The Celtics averaged 86.5 points and shot 42.9 percent from the floor in splitting the first two games of the series. The Sixers scored at the exact same clip, while shooting 42.5 percent.
On Wednesday Boston missed its first seven shots and finished the first quarter 10-for-22. The Sixers led 33-28 at that point, 35-28 after scoring the first basket of the second period.
But Boston shot 30-for-55 (54.5 percent) and outscored the Sixers 79-58 over the last three quarters to win going away. The Sixers shot just 20-for-60 (33.3 percent) over that same span.
“We ran into a Celtics team that had a real sense of purpose about them tonight,” said Sixers coach Doug Collins, who added that his team “got seduced a little bit” in the first quarter.
“We were scoring and we were in a nice rhythm,” he said. “I didn’t think we got any sort of defensive mindset the entire night. They just sliced and diced, got shots they wanted to get. They ran out on the break, they scored.”
Garnett, who shot 12-for-17 from the floor, also grabbed 13 rebounds. Pierce collected 12 for the Celtics, who led by as many as 27 points in the second half.
But it was Rondo, Rivers said, who “set the tone” for the Celtics.
“He was extremely serious at shootaround today,” Rivers said. “He really set the tone for our mental approach.”
Rondo denied he was any more serious than any of his teammates. Nor would he admit that he was looking to score early in the game, though he finished the first quarter with 13 points.
Rather, he said he was just trying to “take what the defense gives me.”
Boston seemed to take whatever it wanted.
“They kept the pressure on us the entire night,” Collins said. “This is a team you could see did not want to be down 2-1 heading into Game 4.”
Pierce, plagued by a bad knee and hounded by Philadelphia’s best defender, Andre Iguodala, shot 5-for-20 in the first two games and missed his first six shots Wednesday. But he rallied to make six of his last 11. He also sank 11 of 14 free throws.
Thaddeus Young had 22 points for the Sixers, and Jrue Holiday added 15.
Holiday scored 10 of his points in the first quarter, when the Sixers shot 61.9 percent and assumed that 33-28 lead. But Boston outscored Philadelphia 32-14 over the last 11:29 of the second quarter – a stretch in which Garnett scored 13 points – to go up 60-49 at halftime.
In all, Garnett shot 8-for-11 and scored 17 points in the first half. Rondo also scored 17.
Holiday finished the first half with 10, as did Young. But the Sixers shot just 6-for-19 in the second quarter (31.6 percent), while the Celtics knocked down 13 of their 20 attempts (65 percent).
NOTES: Rivers was one of four coaches named to the NBA’s revamped 10-member competition committee. He said that while the matter had been discussed among the coaches, he had never been asked whether he wanted to be part of the committee. Rather, he was informed by an email from the league office that he was on it. “It was pretty funny,” he said. “I just happened to read it and I said, ‘Oh, OK.’ … I think it’s a good move. I’m happy to be on it.” … Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie was booed when he was shown on the video screen. Quarterback Michael Vick, seated alongside Lurie in a luxury box, was not. … The Eagles’ first-round draft pick, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, was also in the crowd, as was cornerback Brandon Boykin, a fourth-round choice. Veteran guard Todd Herremans and ex-Eagles running back Brian Westbrook were on hand as well.. … Collins is fond of saying that he coached both teams when he served as a TV analyst on NBA games. “I was undefeated, too, baby,” he said. “Won an Emmy for that (crap).”