Kevin Garnett reasserted himself offensively in the Celtics’ 85-75 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Saturday night at TD Garden.
Garnett finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds, abandoning his unselfish offensive tendencies long enough to go 7 for 17 from the field. He finished the series with a team-leading 115 field goal attempts and 50.4 shooting percentage, best among the starters.
But Garnett was talking defense after the contest.
“Any time you close out a Game 7, it’s good,’’ Garnett said. “Any time you get a win, it’s satisfying. Tomorrow is not an option - play with a sense of urgency, win or go home.
“I was more focused on ‘D’ – making sure the bigs had their assignments. But I’ve been feeling good since the All-Star break. I know how to play this game.’’
Garnett on the Miami Heat, the Celtics’ opponents in the conference finals beginning Monday: “I think they’re playing well - LeBron [James], [Dwyane Wade] playing at a high level. It’s a good time right now - it’s the cream of the cream.’’
Garnett, who labeled Philadelphia supporters “fair-weather fans,’’ did not take the bait on Heat fans. Asked if he had a message, Garnett winked and said: “Not at all.’’
Paul Pierce fouled out with 4:16 remaining and wasn’t happy about it.
“I was very disappointed,’’ said Pierce, who finished with 15 points and nine rebounds. “You know, no one goes out there and tries to foul out, especially when it’s clear our team needs me. I was put into situations where the previous two fouls, where I felt like I had to take fouls, and I didn’t want to give up any easy buckets. At the end of the day, it’s all for the team. You know, coach [Doc Rivers] is always saying give yourself up for the team, and that’s what I was trying to do.
“You know, with me out, one of our primary scoring options, guys came together, showed some resolve. Other guys stepped up, defensively. Offensively, [Rajon] Rondo did what he had to do, and we’re sitting here talking about going to Miami. So, it’s a great feeling, especially not being able to play the last few minutes.
“It’s a quick turnaround but I kind of like it that way. It keeps us in a rhythm, it keeps us playing. We’re an older team, so we don’t want to sit around for too long. We’re up for the challenge. We know how hard it is to win a championship.’’
The Big Three could be on their last legs with the Celtics. But Ray Allen is accustomed to being labeled as past his sell-by date.
“I’ve been in that situation many times before. That question’s been posed to me so many times,’’ said Allen when asked about the end possibly approaching for his partnership with Garnett and Pierce.
“We’ve been so fortunate to do what we’ve done here. It seems like we’ve been ruled out so many years before. This is just another opportunity to go out and be who we are. We’re not worried about what’s beyond [Saturday night]. We’re worried about more what we have present day.’’
Allen, recovering from an ankle injury, was in the starting lineup for the third successive game in place of Avery Bradley, who underwent shoulder surgery Friday. Allen struggled in an 82-75 loss to the Sixers in Game 6 Wednesday.
“That was the one change they made,’’ Rivers said before Game 7 Saturday night. “They kind of let [Allen] get shots. Their thinking was if he can hurt you, he’ll hurt you. But, clearly, they didn’t think he could.
“In Game 6, they were right, because they used that other guy to help out on Kevin and Paul and Rondo. You know, it’s strange when they’re using Ray’s guy to help out on other guys, but that’s what they did in Game 6.’’
Allen started Game 7 just as cold, going 1 for 9, but converted his last two attempts - a pair of fourth-quarter 3-pointers.
“That one stretch where he passed up a shot, we took him out and said we’re not having that,’’ Rivers said of Allen. “And he said my foot’s killing me, I need a break. I said, ‘Ray you’re not going to pass up shots.’ Rondo told him the same thing, which I thought was great for Ray to hear, and then Kevin went over and told him.’’
Tickets on sale
Celtics tickets for Games 3, 4, and possibly 6 at TD Garden go on sale Sunday at 11 a.m. at celtics.com. There is a five-ticket limit.