BOSTON – Boston’s old guys just needed a little pick-up. Philadelphia Coach Doug Collins provided it.
Kevin Garnett scored 19 points, Jeff Green added 16, and the Celtics won the back end of a home-and-home with Philadelphia, beating the 76ers 92-79 on Saturday night.
During his pregame press briefing, Collins said Garnett had played over 50,000 minutes and Paul Pierce 48,000. He added that veteran Jason Terry had also played a large amount of minutes in his career and there was no way his team should be more tired than Boston.
Celtics Coach Doc Rivers first agreed that “he’s right,” but later joked that he might tell his players.
After the game, Rivers said he passed the message along.
“I did,” he said, smiling. “It was great. Thank you for that, media.”
Asked how his players responded, Rivers said the usually fiery Garnett “reacted the way you’d think he’d react.”
Pierce, though, just found it all kind of amusing.
“It was amazing that he calculated that,” he said.
Pierce finished with 13 points, and Rajon Rondo dished out 11 assists and collected nine rebounds, one night after his first triple-double of the season. Rondo had just seven points.
Thaddeus Young led Philadelphia with 22 points and Evan Turner scored 13. The 76ers have lost three of four.
“The difference between us right now and a team like the Celtics, the Celtics have a mental toughness born through championships, and night in and night out being a team that has to play every single night because teams come with their best efforts,” Collins said. “They mentally have an incredible approach. Kevin Garnett? I guarantee you his legs weren’t the freshest out there tonight, but his mind was the sharpest.”
Philadelphia won Friday when Turner hit the go-ahead basket in the lane with 3.9 seconds left in overtime and Rondo missed a game-ending shot after he slipped along the left baseline.
“I love the way we responded tonight,” Pierce said. “A lot of the guys were mad for the fact we lost and we wanted to take it out on them. We felt that was a winnable game last night and we wanted to do something about it.”
Garnett was 9 of 11 from the floor.
“Experience, a lot of it,” 76ers guard Jrue Holiday said. “He’s been to championships, he’s been to finals, he’s been to a million playoffs. He’s probably played a million and a half minutes so he’s got a lot of experience.”
The 76ers shot just 39 percent.
The Celtics led by 20 at halftime, but what looked like a rout quickly tightened late in the third quarter.
Boston led 65-44 before the 76ers scored 13 straight points over a 2:54 stretch. Turner had a pair of baskets and Holiday nailed a 3-pointer from the left wing, but the Celtics scored the final five points of the quarter and led 70-57 entering the fourth. Garnett ended the run with a jumper and hit a free throw later.
They pushed the lead back to 18 midway into the fourth.
The Celtics certainly looked like they took Collins’ theory personally in the first half.
Boston held the 76ers to a season-low 28 points in the first half, seemed to contest nearly every shot and held a 20-point lead at halftime. Philadelphia shot 23 percent (9 of 39) in the first half.