"We're a veteran team, we know how to play," Garnett said, "It's just [about] when we want to put our heads together, go out and execute and do the things we have worked on. I think the second half of the season is when you really get into what you do. It's just focus. When we want to do it, we do it. Some nights we get lazy."
Rondo was anything but lazy in the second half and sparked the Celtics in the third quarter. He was scoreless on four shots through the first half before coming alive and pushing Boston past the Sixers in the third. He scored three straight driving layups off the pick-and-roll that broke a tie and put Boston ahead 60-54. He finished with 14 in the quarter and nearly had a triple-double through three. He finished with six rebounds.
Rondo said he was simply trying to get aggressive and find a way to get to the free-throw line. Coach Doc Rivers said Rondo delivered exactly when the Celtics needed him.
"We just didn't have anything going at that one stretch and then we ran two plays and Rondo was fantastic in them," Rivers said.
Rondo's production was needed because of an unusual off night from Pierce. Pierce, Boston's leading scorer at 17.9 points a game, was limited to only seven points and he missed eight of nine shots.
"I kept looking at my hand wondering what was wrong," Pierce said. "I felt real good out there. But the shots weren't falling."
Garnett and Allen -- who form the Big Three with Pierce -- were there to make up the difference. They went 15 for 25 from the floor and had the hundreds of fans in Celtics green that invaded Philly going wild.
Glen Davis had 12 for the Celtics. The aging Celtics -- they just added Michael Finley -- couldn't put away the lowly Sixers until the end.
Rondo missed a dunk down the lane that the Sixers used to score two free throws on the other end and slice the deficit to 90-85. The Celtics didn't let the Sixers score a field goal over the final 3 minutes and sealed it from the free-throw line to win their third straight game.
The Sixers have played some of their best basketball this season against the NBA's top teams. Turning that effort into victories has been problematic. Andre Iguodala scored 14 points.
"If you want to model yourself after a good team, you look at a team with a lot of vets who play the game the right way," Iguodala said.
Once one of the NBA's top rivalries, Boston-Philadelphia has cooled over the last two decades. Still, play was chippy in the first half, with both Boston's Kendrick Perkins and Philadelphia Marreese Speights whistled for technical fouls.
Brand, who missed two games with right Achilles' tendinitis, made a strong return in the first quarter. He scored 12 points and the Sixers shot 57 percent from the floor to lead 25-23.
Brand, though, only scored five points the rest of the way. He was bloodied late in the game and sat out for a spell because he had to change jerseys. He returned for the final minutes.
"Last few games, for 2 1/2, three quarters it was a pretty solid performance throughout the game but we really need to get the Ws," Brand said.
Once a double-double regular in his prime, Brand grabbed only four rebounds in 33 minutes. Garnett led Boston's attack on the glass and the Celtics outrebounded Philadelphia 41-30.
Finley, who asked for and was granted his release from the San Antonio Spurs earlier this week, will join the Celtics on Saturday. Rivers expects Finley to debut the next day against the Washington Wizards. "We don't know where we're going to fit him in, but adding a veteran can never hurt," Rivers said. Finley sprained his left ankle early this season and appeared in just 25 games for San Antonio. ... Celtics G Tony Allen (hip) did not play. ... Allen Iverson, who will not return to the 76ers, still has his nameplate over his locker and clothes hanging inside.