When Kevin Garnett is playing like the Garnett of a few years past, things come easy for the Celtics.
In a 107-91 Game 3 beatdown against the Sixers in Philadelphia, Garnett was at his best. He wasn’t alone, though. Rajon Rondo also put in a fantastic game with 23 points, 14 assists and six rebounds, the Celtics veteran leader working with his young and savvy point guard to give the C's the upper hand in this series.
A leader in the locker room, on the floor and also when on the bench, Garnett was incredible in Game 3. Scoring a game-high 27 points on 12 of 17 field goals to go along with a game-high 13 rebounds and four assists, he did a bit of everything.
In his 30 minutes, he made his presence felt, and he killed a piece of Philadelphia’s soul.
On the Sixers’ home floor, in front of their fans, Garnett sucked the life out of the building, jumping all over them in the second quarter, where he scored 13 of his 27 points and helped the Celtics move ahead by double digits.
While we’ve talked a lot about the importance of Paul Pierce whenever Rondo struggles, in this series, it’s become clear that Garnett is the beating pulse for the Celtics. Pierce is struggling on both ends of the floor, doesn’t look fully healthy and doesn’t seem to have any lift.
Fighting through a gimpy knee, he’s giving what he can, but he isn’t able to be the scorer that the Celtics have grown accustomed to having.
Ray Allen and Avery Bradley are both nursing injuries, Allen an ankle and Bradley a shoulder. Rondo continues to be Rondo; when he scores, it is an appreciated bonus, and when he doesn’t, it’s accepted because he does so many other things for the Celtics.
As Game 2 showed, when Rondo is struggling, the Celtics need somewhere else to focus on the offensive end of the floor.
Rather than going to the perimeter, Boston needs to continue to look inside as this series advances. Against a defensive-minded Sixers squad, it is Garnett who will drive them to an Eastern Conference finals trip, and it is Rondo who needs to continue to toss him the keys.
The combination of the two extremely intelligent, highly competitive and insanely dedicated teammates is proving to be Boston’s biggest weapon in a postseason where it had been written off by ageists.
While we expected this from Rondo, even after seeing Garnett thrive in the second half of the season after coach Doc Rivers moved him into the center position, no one knew how he would hold up in the playoffs. Instead of just holding up, he’s been setting the bar for big men in this series.
The Celtics are tough because to beat them, you almost have to hope that they’ll beat themselves with careless turnovers or silly mistakes. In Philadelphia, Boston stuck to the script. It recognized where its hot hand was in the second quarter, and it continued to roll with it until it had broken the game open.
Rondo’s careful but deliberate decision-making brought to mind a quote from former Celtics teammate Glen Davis:
He makes it sound right. You know, just like an engineer or a producer. You can have all of these banging tracks and these sounds, but when he puts it together, he makes it a hit.
With Garnett and Rondo leading the way, the Celtics look to be in control once again.
Older than this Sixers team, they also appear to be wiser. In a game like basketball, that counts.
Holly MacKenzie is a Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.