The Celtics played the best basketball they have played all playoffs last night in their win over the Sixers, 107-91. The Celtics top 3 players at the moment, KG, Pierce, and Rondo, all played incredible in the win. The best out of the 3 was Kevin Garnett. He posted 27 points on 12-of-17 shooting with 13 rebounds and four assists over 30 minutes in an absolutely dominating performance. Garnett was plus-27 during his time on the court, helping Boston open a double-digit lead at halftime and blowing the game open soon after. Rondo got the team going in the first quarter and in the first half. He chipped in 23 points, 17 of those coming in the first half, on 9-of-16 shooting, then settled into distributor mode, finishing with 16 assists over 40:44. Pierce looked ready from the get go. I saw many tweets that were stating, “Look at Pierce’s eyes, he is ready to go.” And those statements were true. You could just tell that Pierce wanted this game and wanted to make up for how poorly he had played in Game 2. He came back, still hobbling on that bad knee and played with a vengeance. After looking a step slow due to the sprained MCL in his left knee in Game 2, Paul Pierce came out with sleeves over his knees, but seemed to have a fire about him, grunting and screaming with boundless energy every time he went to the rim. Despite playing all of the first quarter, he still had enough energy and bounce in his legs in the final two minutes to produce a pair of dunks in a 25-second span, driving straight at the Philadelphia defense. It only lit the fuse for Pierce, who finished with 24 points on 6-of-17 shooting but got to the line often while connecting on 11 of 14 freebies. He added 12 rebounds and four assists over 37 minutes.
The 76ers were no slouches themselves, as they were able to gain a lead at many points throughout the game. The Sixers continue to be a scary team in my eyes because of their youth and athleticism. The way they can get up and down the court is scary, and can continue to cause problems for the aging Celtics. The one key to keep a team like Philly out of their transition play is taking care of the ball, one thing the Celtics did really well last night. Rondo gave the ball away less than a minute in, leading to an Andre Iguodala dunk in transition. From then on, Boston took care of the basketball, turning it over just one other time in the first half (it did lead to an Iguodala 3-pointer). As those two giveaways showed, the 76ers can do a lot of damage off turnovers, but the Celtics did a phenomenal job taking care of the ball and giving themselves a chance to put points on the board. Boston finished with a mere seven turnovers for seven points. If Boston can continue to take care of the ball like this, I believe they will be able to take this series handily. But turnovers can happen at anytime, and they can happen in bunches, which scares me a little bit.
I love knowing that the C’s stole home-court advantage back their way. When the Celtics play at home it seems that they play with a different tenacity and a different swagger. They play so well in front of the home fans, which makes the Garden that much better of a place to be in. When the Celtics come back to Boston, I believe that they will close out this series and move on to the Eastern Conference Finals. But just how can the Celtics look so poorly offensively one night, then two days later go out and put up triple digits on the road? That’s the 2012 season in a nutshell. This team is frustratingly inconsistent on a night-to-night/game-to-game basis, but when the Celtics are on, they are on. Boston’s offense was locked in all night Wednesday and, once the defense tightened up after the first quarter, the game was rarely close again. If the Celtics came here to steal back home-court advantage, then they are already playing with house money in Friday’s Game 4. The Celtics stole that and momentum back by absolutely throttling the Sixers on their home turf. Of course, the question is whether they can carry it over to the next meeting. If they do, they could be headed back to Boston looking to close this series out. And who would of thought, looking at this team and this season, that the Celtics could be playing for a slot in the NBA Finals at some point? How sweet it is.