Celtics-76ers Preview

Kevin Garnett turns 36 on Saturday, a youthful age for any man,

except for the rare ones with nearly 55,000 punishing minutes

absorbed on an NBA floor.

Garnett knows all the ageist labels attached to the Boston

Celtics. How they’re called The Over The Hill Gang, and the

wisecracks about flashing AARP cards before they check into a game,

and how each crucial postseason game raises questions about The Big

Three’s last hurrah.

The Celtics have known since training camp a championship run

centered around Garnett, 36-year-old Ray Allen, and 34-year-old

Paul Pierce was on its last legs.

Aging legs, yes.

But far from finished.

Garnett displayed dominant proof in Boston’s Game 3 rout against

the Philadelphia 76ers. He scored 27 points and grabbed 13 rebounds

to help the Celtics snare a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference


The Sixers under-25 crew had no way to slow down Garnett.

He made 12 of 17 shots in Game 3 and is shooting 63 percent

overall in the series.

Let others get nostalgic for the stretch run of Boston’s

terrific trio. Garnett only cares about winning the next game, the

next series, and another championship to pair with the one The Big

Three clinched in 2008.

”I’m focused on the playoffs,” Garnett said Thursday. ”I

haven’t given much thought to it. I’m definitely aware of it. We

know what the possibilities are. But at this point, right now, it’s

the playoffs.”

Garnett heard a few screams of ”We love you, Kevin!” from

passing fans as he answered questions alongside Pierce outside the

Four Seasons Hotel.

The chants should be more antagonistic in Game 4 Friday in


Garnett will tune them out the way he’s zoned out the light

attempts at defense the Sixers have thrown at him. Even at 35 (or

36), Garnett is still more mobile than Philadelphia’s frontcourt

combo of Spencer Hawes and Elton Brand. Lavoy Allen’s foul troubles

have limited his guarding Garnett.

”You have to do a better job early,” Sixers coach Doug Collins

said. ”You can’t let him get such deep position. You can’t let him

run underneath the rim, turn and face the basket. You have to meet

him at the free throw line.”

Pierce was slowed by an MCL injury in his left knee, until a

gutsy 24-point, 12-rebound outing in Game 3. Allen scored only

three points and has been secure enough in letting Garnett, Pierce

and Rajon Rondo handle the scoring load that he turned down KG’s

offer to get him more touches.

Garnett told Allen: ”We’ve got to do whatever we can to get you


”I looked at him and said, `Kevin, you’re the guy getting

shots. You’re the guy that’s scoring. We just won by 20. I don’t

need to, for the sake of my ego, do anything like that. We just

keep doing what we’re doing. If they keep guarding us this way,

then you’ve got to keep doing what you’re doing.”’

Garnett and Allen are free agents at the end of the season. A

championship run that seemed blocked by young-gun All-Stars eased

up with Chicago out of the picture. The Miami Heat are without

Chris Bosh indefinitely. And the Sixers showed in Game 3 how

vulnerable they are when a top team is clicking.

Pierce realizes the sense of urgency to win a championship with

the trio playing their final games together. They want to make it


”We’ve realized that from Day 1. I think pretty much the last

couple of years we’ve been feeling like that,” Pierce said. ”But

the influence is to try and win another championship, regardless of

if this is going to be our last time together. Who knows what the

future is going to hold for all of us?”

The Sixers, meanwhile, are trying to find a way to slow down the

old guys.

They looked totally lost after the first quarter. The Sixers

weren’t hitting shots and the defense couldn’t bail them out with

key stops. Starters Brand, Hawes and Evan Turner combined for only

11 points.

”It was a little embarrassing because you don’t want to put on

a showing like that, and definitely at home,” guard Jrue Holiday

said. ”At the same time, it’s motivation to not do it again.”

Collins showed the Sixers game film from the first half on

Thursday and the reviews weren’t pretty. What they saw was a team

that never had a grip on their defensive assignments. The Sixers

offered little resistance once Garnett got hot in the second

quarter (13 points) with a flurry of 10- to 16-foot fadeaways and

open jumpers.

”I never considered them old,” Collins said. ”They sure

looked pretty young to me. Garnett’s playing great.”

Just how the Celtics like it.

”I don’t know if I’m surprised. It’s in him,” coach Doc Rivers

said. ”He’s feeling pretty good. he’s at a great place mentally.

That’s always nice. I think our guys understand how important he is

to our team. He understands that as well. It’s just great. I’m

happy for him.”