The Celtics were a .500 team in the 10 games this season when they got 2 or more days of rest. But they played none of those teams four times in a row, with a shot at a title at risk.
The Celtics now are 2-0 since the playoffs started when given 2 days of rest. They were aggressive and crisp and clever.
They shot 33 free throws, the most of either team in any game this series.
Kevin Garnett regained the shooting legs that propelled him to 29 points in Game 1 and 27 in Game 3. His early production provided the foundation for the third-quarter swing; 14 points in the first half as the Sixers frenetically sought to keep pace. He finished with 20 points.
Right at the point when a fatigued Celtics team faded in Game 4 on Friday, in the third quarter, this rejuvenated bunch of oldsters exploded.
So did a husky youngster among them.
Husky guys need rest, too.
Big Brandon Bass, listed at 6-8 and 240 (try 270, folks), gave the Celtics their lead on three consecutive plays at the rim in the third quarter. The Sixers' young combinations could not decipher the pick-and-roll play that Bass ran with cagey point guard Rajon Rondo. They kept abandoning Bass.
Bass repeatedly undressed Lavoy Allen and Thaddeus Young. He dropped 18 of his 27 points and grabbed four of his six rebounds in the third quarter. The 27 points surpassed his career playoff high.
"It was nothing new they did," Allen said. "I just didn't do a good job on it."
The Sixers, intent on slowing Rondo's offense, abandoned the post players to quiet Rondo.
Rondo finished with 14 assists. Not the cheap type, either, where he earns a dime with a chest pass to a jump shooter. Most of these were gems that led to three dunks, a couple of open jump shots and a 13-point swing that gave the Celtics the game.
Sixers coach Doug Collins said his team had to pick its poison, that it needed to adhere to Paul Pierce. But Pierce, whose head fake and whose slow release the Sixers one day will learn to resist, was not the problem.
"It starts with Rondo," Brand said. "He's been aggressive. That leaves Kevin Garnett open for a jumper. It leaves Brandon Bass open for a jumper or a dunk."
Two days of rest left the Celtics with enough energy to panic the Sixers' young players during the third-quarter push. The Sixers turned it over on five consecutive possessions.
Unlike grizzled Garnett, Pierce and Allen, Rondo is fresh, only in his sixth NBA season, only 26 years old.
Still, he led NBA point guards in minutes per game this season. He leads all players in the playoffs in minutes. The extra day helped him, too.
It appeared that the time off would serve the Sixers' end, too. For the first time in eight games, Brand had full use of his neck and left shoulder. He scored 19 points, matching his playoff high.
In a loss.
It's as if the Sixers can do nothing to beat a rested, focused Celtics team.
Well, that's the case.
The Sixers went 2-1 against the Celtics in the regular season. The Sixers won the first two games, both at home. The Celtics had played the night before each time.
Consider this reality: The Sixers won Game 2 at the last minute. They won Game 4 because the Celtics were exhausted.
The Sixers can talk about Andre Iguodala missing two free throws on a clear-path foul all they want.
They can impugn their young backcourt; Jrue Holiday committed four turnovers, two during the killing Celtics' run.
"We did not meet the tenacity that they played with," Collins said.
That was unfair. Collins is almost never unfair, but that was not true.
If nothing else, the Sixers played hard. They didn't give up easy baskets. They didn't stop defending. They didn't abandon rebounds or loose balls.
They played with plenty of tenacity.
To a pedigreed, well-coached, well-rested, home-standing, championship team, they lost.
They just lost.
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