After struggling offensively for the first three quarters, Kevin Garnett  willed himself and the Celtics  back into a game they trailed by as much as eight in the fourth — but it wasn’t enough to overcome the 76ers in an 82-81 loss.
Garnett scored 11 of his 15 points and grabbed four of his 12 boards in the fourth quarter, and Avery Bradley  and Ray Allen  made back-to-back 3-pointers to snare leads of 72-71 and 75-74 in the final 2:20, but Philadelphia executed too well, and Garnett committed a costly moving screen with 10 seconds left and the C’s trailing by three.
Allen’s 17 points led the Celtics in scoring, and Rajon Rondo  finished with 13 assists. Jrue Holiday led the 76ers with 18 points, and Evan Turner  scored six huge points in the fourth quarter, as the Sixers evened the Eastern Conference semifinals on their way home for Wednesday’s Game 3.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Settling down: As quickly as the Celtics built a 9-0 lead in the first quarter, the Sixers erased it. A whopping 14 of their first 17 shots came outside of 10 feet, cutting the lead to 15-13 midway through the first quarter and tying it 25-25 46 seconds into the second. A whopping 13 of the C’s first 17 shot attempts came from 10 feet and beyond, thanks in part to Rondo passing up open layups for the possibility of an assist on a jump shot from his teammates.
Shouldering the load: Bradley reinjured his oft dislocated shoulder when Sixers forward Elton Brand blocked his shot attempt. While Allen replaced Bradley in the lineup, the Celtics missed the 21-year-old’s quickness defending Philadelphia’s young backcourt. At halftime, Bradley owned the C’s best plus/minus (plus-13), while Allen had their worst (minus-12). Meanwhile, Sixers guard Holiday scored 13 first-half points on 5-of-9 shooting.
Center of attention: Just as the C’s backcourt defense suffered without Bradley, their entire defensive effort struggled without Garnett in the lineup. The Celtics built a 15-7 in Garnett’s first five minutes on the floor, and the Sixers outscore them 13-8 over the next five minutes. And so went every five-minute interval. The worst stretch came in the third quarter, when the 76ers turned a 43-40 deficit into a 51-47 lead with Garnett on the bench, taking momentum into the fourth quarter.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Three party: After making just 2-of-13 3-point attempts (13.3 3P%) over his first seven playoff games, Pietrus came through when the Celtics needed him most. He made back-to-back treys in the span of 51 seconds to bring a Celtics team trailing 59-53 and reeling for much of the second half back from the dead. His triples cut the lead to 61-59 and awoke the C’s crowd. Perhaps his driving layup 18 seconds after taking the floor for the first time in the opening quarter set the tone.
Starting nine: Despite playing in front of a half empty TD Garden due to the 7 p.m. tipoff, the Celtics built a 9-0 lead on 4-for-4 shooting over the first 2:08 (holding 76ers to 0-5 FG). Garnett got the game started on an 11-footer, Bradley buried a 3-pointer from the corner and Brandon Bass  dropped a couple jumpers of his own. Pierce, Rondo and Bradley all picked up assists on those field goals, and the C’s ball movement looked sharp early.
Fishing for Bass: After Garnett’s 29-point explosion in Game 1, Sixers coach Doug Collins  switched Spencer Hawes  onto Bass as Elton Brand defended KG. So the Celtics simply turned to Bass (12 points), who knocked down his first two attempts. While he shot just 5-of-15 from the field, the Celtics — and Rondo in particular — made a concerted effort to get the struggling forward involved, and that should pay dividends going forward.