Garnett, Celtics rout 76ers
BOSTON — The Boston Celtics have taken control of the Atlantic Division and the all-important No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Boston completed a 2-0 weekend with a 103-79 rout of the Philadelphia 76ers, two-time losers over the weekend, on Sunday to take a three-game lead in the division with 10 games remaining in the abbreviated NBA season.
Already leading by 14 at the break, the Celtics, winning for the ninth time in their last 10 home games, hit nine of their first 11 shots of the second half. Rajon Rondo ran wild in a nine-assist third quarter that blew the game wide open.
Rondo, the fourth player in NBA history to record 16 straight double-figure assist games, made it 17 straight with 15 more on Sunday. Kevin Garnett, who seems to be getting younger under the pressure of this heavy schedule, had 20 points, Brandon Bass and Avery Bradley (five assists) added 18 points apiece, and Paul Pierce 17 and Ray Allen, again coming off the bench, had 10.
The Celtics, who avoided a three-game series sweep by the Sixers, led by as many as 28 points and shot 58.8 percent from the floor, 62.3 in the first three quarters.
Nik Vucevic came off the bench to lead Philadelphia, which has lost five of its last six and is in danger of not making the playoffs, with 14 points and a career-high 13 rebounds. His previous high was 12 against the Celtics March 7.
The Sixers, blown out at home by Toronto while the Celtics were winning in Indiana Saturday night, fell to 0-8 this season when allowing 100 points in a game.
The Sixers came out and hit seven of their first 10 shots Sunday. But the Celtics were matching them, and when Philadelphia went cold, Boston took control. The Celtics led by three at the end of the first quarter, with Pierce leading the way with 11 points.
The lead grew to 10 points when the Celtics ran off a 7-0 run capped by Allen's 3-pointer three minutes into the second quarter.
The lead increased to 19 midway through the quarter, with the Sixers looking for their second field goal of the second quarter. It came 8:04 after the first one, with Spencer Hawes credited with a basket on a clear goaltending call on Garnett.
That made it 45-28, and it was Philly's second basket in 14 tries in the quarter. The Sixers then started hitting some shots and trailed by 14 at the half.
NOTES: Boston's Mickael Pietrus, out since March 23 with a concussion, passed a baseline concussion test while the team was out of town. It is the first step back but he still has a ways to go. “He feels good,” coach Doc Rivers said before Sunday night's game. “I think personality wise, he's talking -- and talking loud again -- that's a good sign.” With Allen having moved to the bench, Pietrus is a candidate to start when he returns. ... The Celtics begin a murderous stretch of five games in six nights Tuesday night at Miami. They then host the Hawks Wednesday before visiting Toronto, New Jersey and Charlotte for their 3-in-3-night stretch Friday-Sunday. ... The Sixers opened the season with 20 wins in their first 29 games, before the bottom fell out. ... Pierce came into the game with nine 20-point games in the last 10, averaging 22.7 points per game over that span.