"I keep throwing out the second unit, but that was a big moment for us," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said of Garnett's playing with four guys off the bench. "That group with Kevin brought us back in the game. It kind of gave a blueprint for our starters."
At the start of the fourth quarter, with the Celtics trailing by double digits, a smiling Garnett approached Rivers.
"I'm playing the rest of the game," he told his coach.
And play he did.
Garnett helped put the finishing touches on the comeback with a pair of late baskets. But without the reemergence of the rest of Boston's Big Four, Garnett's effort would have gone for nothing.
After struggling to hit a shot early, point guard Rajon Rondo controlled the tempo of the second half and finished with his eighth career playoff triple-double.
The 26-year-old, who has been charged with providing a spark for this Celtics squad, was 3 for 6 in the fourth with five boards and four assists.
"Rondo is an amazing player," Sixers coach Doug Collins said. "He takes the ball wherever he wants to on the floor."
Rondo's fourth quarter hid the poor play by Boston's captain, Paul Pierce. Pierce finished a dismal 3 for 11, but hit all eight of his free throws to finish with 14 points.
After Spencer Hawes' solid series against the Bulls, the 76ers had reason to believe the 7-foot-1 big man would match up well with Garnett. Garnett had a different idea, though. And it involved a big-time mismatch.
Hawes, who took turns covering Garnett, gave the Celtic too much space on the elbows and got burned on the glass.
Early in the fourth quarter, Garnett stuffed an Andre Iguodala dunk attempt and sent the Celtics on a fastbreak. Four-point swing. Advantage, Celtics.
A few minutes later, Rondo missed a layup off the glass. Garnett grabbed the rebound with one hand and threw down a two-handed dunk in front of Hawes, then gave him a little push on the way down the court as the two chirped at each other.
"Garnett," Collins said, "this is as well as I've seen him play."