Philadelphia, PA – It has been nearly a decade since there was a second round playoff game in Philadelphia.
The anticipation was palpable as 20,351 fans filed in to Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday and picked up their red T-shirts that sported the Sixers' marketing slogan: "Passionate, Intense, Proud."
It should have read "Indifferent, Moderate, Sad."
Instead of an electric atmosphere, the sellout crowd was treated to 20-plus minutes of garbage time as Boston ran the Sixers off their own floor, 107-91, in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
"We ran into a Celtic team that had a real sense of purpose about them tonight," 76ers coach Doug Collins said. "You could see from moment one they were looking to push the ball in every situation."
Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce all recorded double-doubles by the time the fourth quarter began.
The upstart Sixers, after earning a surprising split in Boston, came out hot offensively and forgot about the end of the floor that got them to the dance as the Celtics outscored the defensive-minded club by a 61-33 count in the second and third quarters.
"I thought we got seduced a little bit tonight," Collins said. "I thought early in the game we were scoring and we were in a nice rhythm and I didn't think we ever got any kind of defensive mindset the entire night. They just sliced and diced, got shots they wanted to get."
Garnett finished with 27 points and 13 rebounds, Rondo added 23 points and 14 assists and Pierce put up 24 points and 12 boards despite dealing with an ailing left knee.
Boston committed just seven turnovers and was shooting over 60 percent for a spell before settling in at 52 for the game against a Sixers club that allowed the third fewest points per game (89.4) during the regular season.
"We made shots and when you make shots, everything looks better," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "You're in a make-miss league. It always will be and we made some shots, but I thought we got shots the right way."
Really the C's "got" whatever they wanted.
This was Mike Tyson vs. Marvis Frazier and Roddy Piper vs. Frankie Williams rolled into one. If Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was in town, he would have lowered the sunglasses, raised his eyebrow and called the Sixers jabronies.
The Washington Generals generally put up a tougher fight against the Harlem Globetrotters and the drunken stumblebum in section 115 during the third quarter had more pluck in him that either Elton Brand or Spencer Hawes.
The two Sixers big men have managed to make Garnett, who turns 36 in three days, into a superstar again throughout the series. On Wednesday they put him in a time machine with embarrassing defense and he was the 2004 NBA MVP again.
Brand, on the other hand, played like he was 63 and the pre-game layup line proved to be the toughest test K.G. and the Celtics faced all night.
"He's a great player," Sixers forward Thaddeus Young said of Garnett. "He's just cranked it up to another level in this whole playoff series. We just have to go out there and find a way to stop him, which is probably just pushing him out of the paint and not letting him get as many post-ups, double team him on the catch a little bit more and get the ball out of his hands."
About the only criticism you could hurl Boston's way was wondering why Rivers left Rondo and Pierce in the rout deep into the fourth quarter, especially after watching stars like Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Chris Bosh go down in these playoffs.
The prudent move would have been to put his bell cows in bubble wrap and let players like Ryan Hollins, Mickael Pietrus and Keyon Dooling expose just how bad Philadelphia was.
But, like everything else this night, Rivers' decision proved to be the right one.
Nothing got rolled in Game 3 unless you're talking about the Sixers.
"Right now this is all new to us and it's good," Collins said. "It's good that we're going through this and we're learning from this, and hopefully we're going to be a lot better in Game 4."