The Celtics  and Sixers met Tuesday night in what was very likely a playoff preview. The Celtics won an entertaining game, 99-82, which allowed them to slip back into a tie with the Heat for second place in the Eastern Conference. If these two teams do meet in the playoffs, don’t expect a free-flowing game like they played in the first half.
The Celtics were finally able to put together a complete game after locking down on defense and running away with it in the fourth quarter. Good signs all around for the C’s.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Rajon Rondo  is back: Doc Rivers  was asked before the game if he thought his point guard had turned the corner. Rivers answered emphatically that he thought that was the case. Rondo started slowly against the Sixers and allowed his counterpart Jrue Holliday to get off quickly with 11 points in the first quarter. But Rondo changed course and finished the first half with 12 points and nine assists. He also drove to the basket at will and finished at the rim en route to a 16-point, 13-assist performance. Holiday meanwhile finished with just those 11 points.
Jermaine O’Neal  as a starter: Rivers made the decision to keep O’Neal in the starting lineup and have Nenad Krstic  come off the bench. His rationale is that Krstic will assume a reserve role in the playoffs, no matter which of the O’Neals is starting. Jermaine O’Neal offers a stronger defensive presence at the beginning of games and Krstic could fit nicely with Glen Davis  and Jeff Green  in a rotation. O’Neal had his strongest game since his return with nine points and three rebounds, while Krstic had eight points and six rebounds. That’s a good night from the centers.
Kevin Garnett  is ready: If there is one huge difference between this year’s Celtics team and last, it’s that there is no question that Garnett is healthy and ready for the playoffs. He started the game by going into the post twice and took five shots in the first four and a half minutes. Garnett has been the Celtics most consistent players since the All-Star break and that is a major difference as they head into the postseason.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Defense takes a break: The Celtics allowed 50 points and 50 percent shooting in the first half. They allowed 32 in the second half. It’s been a while since they locked down like that in the second half.
Jeff Green with an up and down night: Green had only one shot through the first three quarters. In the fourth, the Celtics made a concerted effort to get him going as he played in a lineup with Delonte West , Ray Allen , Davis and Krstic. That’s a good fit for him as he can be the featured offensive player in that group and he wound up with eight points, seven rebounds and a couple of highlight-level plays.
Ray Allen still needs more shots: Allen played an invaluable role with the reserve units in the rotation, but he had only seven shots. Allen made five of them and finished with 13 points, which speaks to his efficiency. He also oddly missed two free throws on illegal defense technicals. He had made 44 of his last 45 free throws coming into the game.