Garnett leads Celtics in Game 1 win vs. Sixers
BOSTON — Kevin Garnett is starting to turn the playoffs into his personal showcase.
Coming off a stellar game two nights ago when the Celtics closed out the Atlanta Hawks, Garnett put together another outstanding performance in leading Boston to a 92-91 win over the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Saturday night.
“When he’s on the floor, he’s doing everything for us,” Boston coach Doc Rivers said. “It’s so hard when he’s off the floor for those 10, 12 minutes. You’re in a panic.”
Garnett’s three-point play put Boston ahead for good with 2:52 left after the Celtics overcame a 10-point deficit early in the final quarter.
“I don’t know what else we could have done,” 76ers coach Doug Collins said. “He made a lot of tough shots. He hits those long jump shots. … I mean he’s playing as well as I’ve ever seen him.”
On Thursday, Garnett had 28 points and 14 rebounds in Boston’s series-clinching win over the Hawks.
“We feel like that’s our advantage,” Paul Pierce said. “We’re going to ride Kevin all the way until his wheels fall off. He’s bringing it every night.”
Rajon Rondo had his eighth postseason triple-double, with 13 points, 17 assists and 12 rebounds for Boston. Pierce scored 14 points despite a rough shooting night (3 for 11), but he nailed a key jumper with 1:18 left.
Andre Iguodala led the 76ers with 19 points and Evan Turner had 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Monday night.
“Experience showed a little bit, especially with the plays they made.” Iguodala said. “They knew exactly what they were getting into and executed.”
Garnett’s three-point play pushed Boston ahead 86-84 and then, after grabbing the rebound of Turner’s missed jumper, he nailed a long jumper to make it 88-84 with 2:18 to go.
It was similar to many close games against Atlanta when Boston looks inside to Garnett at crunch time.
“That’s the game plan all the time,” Rondo said. “When we get away from that, we take too many jump shots. When we need a basket, we go (to) Paul and Kevin.”
Pierce’s fadeaway jumper from the foul line made it 90-84.
Iguodala cut it to three with a 3-pointer from the top.
After Boston missed, Jrue Holiday was fouled on the other end and made both free throws to cut it to 92-91 with 3.4 seconds left.
Following a timeout, Boston inbounded the ball to Rondo, who was able to stay away from Turner’s foul attempt and run out the clock.
“I felt like I could out-quick him, and that’s what I did,” Rondo said.
The 76ers scored the first six points of the final quarter, opening a double-digit lead (77-67) on Lavoy Allen’s jumper from the left wing. They kept holding off Boston’s charge until Rondo’s jumper from the left wing gave the Celtics an 83-82 lead with 3:48 to play.
But Philadelphia regained the lead when Spencer Hawes picked up a loose ball out of a scramble along the left baseline and calmly nailed a jumper, making it 84-83 with just under 3 1/2 minutes left.
Boston, which trailed by five at the half, scored the initial six points of the second half to take its first lead, 48-47, on Avery Bradley’s reverse layup.
But the 76ers — sparked by Hawes’ inside play — used a 12-2 run, pulling to a 61-55 edge midway into the quarter. Hawes had a pair of baskets and Turner also had two.
Rondo’s driving layup cut the 76ers’ lead to 71-67 after three.
Rivers praised the 76ers’ ability to run before the game and said “if they get it going, they’re going to force it down your throat.”
They did just that from the start, pulling to a 7-0 lead two minutes into the game and opening it to 19-10 midway into the period en route to a 28-18 edge after one.
Philadelphia scored 10 points in the paint in the first quarter and shot 54.5 percent (12 of 22). The Celtics hit only 30 percent (6 of 20) and missed all five attempts from beyond the arc.
Turner scored six points during an 8-0 run midway through the second as the 76ers pulled to a 45-32 lead — their biggest of the opening half — with 3:45 left, but Boston responded by scoring 10 of the last 12 to close it to 47-42 at halftime.
NOTES: Rivers also compared Philadelphia to the Celtics’ last playoff opponent. “They’re like Atlanta on steroids,” he joked, complimenting the 76ers’ power and speed. … Collins had an interesting postgame comment the last time his team played the Celtics and lost by 22 on April 8 in Boston. “I would not want to play them in the playoffs. Everybody is looking at Miami and Chicago as the two teams (to beat in the Eastern Conference), but I wouldn’t blink at Boston.” Philly knocked out the Derrick Rose-less Bulls in six games on Thursday. … Boston G Ray Allen did not participate in the morning shooting. He has been hobbled by right ankle bone spurs, but he played. … The 76ers took two of three during the season, winning by 32 and 13 at home — both coming on the back of consecutive games for Boston. … Rondo entered the night leading the playoffs with 11.8 assists per game. He had eight in the first half.