for this game

Garnett leads Celtics to 50th win

Mar 11, 2008 - 4:40 AM By Michael Luongo PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

PHILADELPHIA (Ticker) -- The Philadelphia 76ers are playing better basketball of late, but they still have a long way to go to get to the level the Boston Celtics are on.

Kevin Garnett scored 26 points and the red-hot Celtics posted their ninth straight win with a 100-86 victory over the 76ers on Monday night.

The Celtics led 53-47 at the half and rode the back of Garnett in the third quarter. Garnett scored 12 of his points in the period to give the Celtics their first 50-win season (50-12) in 16 years.

"The coaches told us at the half to come out and be aggressive," Garnett said. "Sometimes it's me, sometimes it's somebody else. We got some good shots and we got some good looks at the basket. But overall, it our defense that won the game."

Garnett opened the quarter with a pair of baskets that pushed the lead to 57-48. He scored the first 12 of the Celtics' points in a 14-7 run which was capped by a pair of free throws by Paul Pierce.

"When I'm decent, I can see things happening very slow for me," Garnett said. "Tonight was that type of feel. We got the ball to everybody, and they had opportunities to score."

Boston continued to pull away in the fourth and a basket by Ray Allen made it 83-67 with just under 8:00 to play.

The Celtics have had their way with the 76ers this season, having now won all three of the meetings so far, including the first two by an average of 18.5 points. Boston improved to 22-8 on the road and has won four straight away from home.

"That's an experienced team," 76ers guard Andre Miller said. "You got Hall of Famers over there, and you got great role players over there. It's tough to play a team like that. We'll get better, but it's going to take time."

Despite the loss, Philadelphia is showing signs of improvement. The 76ers entered Monday's game having won seven of their last 10 games to move into seventh place in the East, one-half game behind Washington (30-32).

Philadelphia had won four straight and is now 12-4 since February 5.

The Celtics wasted no time jumping on top as they opened the game with a 15-0 run by connecting on six of their first eight shots.

A pair of 3-pointers by Pierce and one by Allen gave Boston an 11-0 lead. Another basket by Allen and a bucket by Garnett capped the run.

"We've been getting off to really good starts and we shot the ball well," Pierce said. "We settled in and, once we cleaned up our rebounding, we were able to clean things and put the game away."

The Sixers did not get on the board until 7:45 when Reggie Evans made the second of two free throws. That began an 11-2 run with Andre Iguodala scoring four points in the spurt - capped by Evans' basket to cut the deficit to 17-11 with 4:12 to go.

"To get that bad of a start and to bounce back into the game, shows how resilient we are, and how we don't quit," Iguodala said. "We are playing the No. 1 team in the league, so we wanted to come out and play good ball. They just played better than us tonight."

Philadelphia kept chipping away at the lead in the second quarter, and Miller tied the game, 44-44, with a pair of free throws with 4:02 to go in the first half.

Boston regained the lead on a layup by Pierce and pushed it to eight on a layup by Garnett, who added 12 rebounds and was 11-of-14 from the field while Allen scored 21 points and Pierce had 17.

"We had to come out and establish the force that we wanted to play with," Allen said. "It was like a progression where you play four quarters consistently and try to be dominate and make them uncomfortable on both ends of the floor."

Miller scored 22 points for the 76ers.

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