Revenge and the desperate need for a victory superseded fatigue Saturday at TD Garden.
Despite an exhausting overtime loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday, the Celtics returned home motivated for payback, ignoring their weariness for one of their most complete victories of the season.
After Philadelphia coach Doug Collins reminded his team that the Celtics and their aging veterans would be spent on the second half of a back-to-back, those old guys sparked a first-half flurry in a 92-79 wire-to-wire win.
Rajon Rondo followed his Friday triple-double with 7 points, 9 rebounds, and 11 assists, while Kevin Garnett added 19 points in 23 minutes, albeit with no rebounds, as the Celtics shot 53.3 percent. The 76ers played two steps slow, never establishing any offensive flow and looking more lethargic despite the younger bodies.
They shot 39.2 percent and while the combination of Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday finished 10-for-29 shooting.
Of course, after leading by as many as 21 in the first half, the Celtics couldn’t withstand too much prosperity in the second. Their defense began faltering and the 76ers warmed up, converting a stunning 14 of 20 shots in the third quarter as a 13-0 run reduced the Celtics’ lead to 65-57 with 1:19 left in the period.
But a 5-0 run to end the period, sparked by a long, contested jumper from Garnett for a 13-point cushion. The 76ers wouldn’t draw closer than 13 the rest of the way.
Collins said before the game that there was no way with the Celtics running Garnett, Paul Pierce (13 points, 9 assists), Jason Terry, and Rondo out there for a second consecutive night that the 76ers should be the more weary team. But he was dead wrong, exemplified by the first half, when it appeared Philadelphia was playing in a green daze.
The 76ers shot 23.1 percent in the first 24 minutes, recording just three assists and missing 30 shots. Turner, who was so effective the previous night at Wells Fargo Center, was 2-for-9 shooting with 4 points and no assists. Holiday was also 2 for 9 with two assists and two turnovers.