Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The Celtics' experience is largely the
reason they have been installed as heavy favorites to beat the upstart
Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
It also happens to be the only way they can lose.
That may sound contradictory but age is almost always the unwelcome accomplice
to experience and while the "Boston Three Party" of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce
and Ray Allen is as battle-tested as they come, they are also retreating in
the one war they will all eventually lose.
As competitive as K.G. is, no amount of bulletin board material coming from
team owners or media members will matter when Father Time decides the
hourglass has run its course and takes his scythe to the skills of Garnett or
his fellow future Hall of Famers.
In fact, that process has already started and can't be halted.
The 35-year-old Garnett has been playing solid basketball recently and put
together an impressive 28-point, 14-rebound performance against Atlanta in
Game 6 when Boston punched its ticket to the semis by jettisoning the fifth-
Of course, that kind of effort used to be a regular occurrence for the 14-time
All-Star, not the type of spike in performance that makes people take notice.
Now eight years removed from his MVP season, Garnett may still sport the
swagger that makes him the NBA's resident bully but the skills have begun
eroding and he is simply not the player he used to be.
Allen, on the other hand, looks like the closest to the finish line. The 36-
year-old, 10-time All-Star has been the NBA's best pure shooter for over a
decade but he's also spent so much time racing around screens, that his right
ankle is toast and will likely require surgery after the season is complete.
Allen was able to give Doc Rivers some solid minutes earlier in the series
against Atlanta but looked shot by Game 6, showing little lift or explosion en
route to finishing a dismal 1-of-7 from beyond the arc.
You shouldn't start playing Taps for Allen's career just yet but Rivers
doesn't know what he is going to get from the UConn product on a game-to-game
basis these days.
The 34-year-old Pierce, meanwhile, is still chugging along at a nice clip,
perhaps since he never really relied on freakish athleticism to become an All-
Star in the first place. "The Truth" remains one of the game's best closers
and a professional scorer thanks to his tremendous body control and innate
ability to set defenders up.
That said, Pierce is now dealing with a sprained MCL in his left knee, the
type of injury that seems to crop up so much more frequently when players hit
"Yeah, I expect to play," Pierce said on Friday. "I'm just getting the
treatments. I'm dealing with a sprained knee, getting as much ice as possible.
It's probably not going to heal until the season is over so I'm just doing the
necessary steps that I can to make sure I don't overdo it or put myself in a
position where I could really hurt my career."
Rivers sounded far from optimistic that he would have Pierce and Allen
anywhere near full strength for Game 1 against the Sixers after a short two-
day turnaround for both clubs.
"It's a challenge because of bodies," Rivers said before the Celtics' film
session and light shootaround on Friday. "The Sixers are pretty healthy, we're
not, so that's the challenge. Ray is struggling today, Paul is struggling
today. That's a challenge."
So while most are escorting the Celtics through the EZ-Pass lane on to the
East finals, Rivers is worried about his young and athletic, albeit poor
shooting, opponents understanding that the Sixers present a bigger hurdle than
"That's not the greatest team to pick to play," Rivers said. "We've got a
bunch of gazelles coming in here; they only beat us by 1,000 in two of our
three games. I can tell you the key to the series right now is we can't turn
the ball over. If we do, it's a guaranteed basket against them."
The Sports Network