BOSTON - This quick jump to the second round of the playoffs was supposed be problematic for a guy like Boston's Kevin Garnett, almost 36.
But Garnett, who has been playing at a high level despite his advanced age, showed no signs of succumbing to the ravages of age on Saturday in leading the Celtics past the Sixers, 92-91, in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference playoffs, and the Celtics don't expect any less from him come Game 2 on Monday night.
The 16-year vet and former league MVP is playing like he has taken a dip in the Fountain of Youth lately, as evidenced by his 29 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks against the Sixers. Through seven playoff games, Garnett is averaging 20.1 points per game on 52.3 percent shooting. Garnett is also averaging 10.6 rebounds and a pair of blocked shots.
The Celtics had hoped that, following their victory over the Hawks on Thursday, that they would get at least two days rest and begin their second-round series against the Sixers on Sunday. But rest was not in the cards for the Celtics, not that it appears to matter so far.
"That's what we were hoping for at least," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "But it's not what we got. So be it."
Just how valuable Garnett is going to be for the Celtics in this series was evident early on in Game 1.
The Celtics trailed by 10 points at the end of the first quarter and it could have been by significantly more had Garnett not immediately asserted himself. Garnett, who turns 36 in less than a week, was 4 for 8 from the floor in the quarter; the other Celtics starters missed all 10 of their shots.
The Celtics have six players that are 30 years old or older, geriatric for an NBA roster, and all but one appeared in Game 1.
The Sixers, and any other opponent Boston faces if it continues to advance, will get a huge dose of Garnett.
"Yeah, we feel like that's our advantage every night, you know, when we look at the Eastern Conference, the teams that that have to match up with him," said Paul Pierce. "We are going to ride Kevin all the way until his wheels fall off and he's bringing it every night. He understands the sense of urgency with this ball club and he's giving it everything he's got out there for us and he's looking like the '04 MVP."
Boston guard Rajon Rondo sliced through the Sixers for his eighth career postseason triple-double (17 assists, 13 points, 12 rebounds), and it would be easy to give him as much credit for Boston taking a 1-0 lead in this series.
But Rondo knows that Boston's game plan is going to begin with the offense being funneled through Garnett.
"I mean, that's the game plan all the time," Rondo said. "When we get away from it we take a lot of jumps shots because we're a jump-shooting team. But when we need a bucket we tend to go to Paul and Kevin, and Kevin had a matchup. He had a lot of great looks that he wanted and he made his shots."