PHILADELPHIA -- Elton Brand played a big part in the 76ers' win over the best team in the East.
He loved the crowd going wild from start to finish.
The scene looked and sounded like a playoff game for the Philadelphia 76ers -- a spectacle they expect to repeat.
"We definitely feel like we're growing into one of the better teams in the East," Brand said.
The Sixers led by 10 points and controlled the Eastern Conference-leading Celtics for most of the fourth quarter.
The Sixers held on one game after they blew a five-point lead with a minute left in regulation in Wednesday's overtime loss to Oklahoma City. They haven't lost consecutive games since Jan. 19-20.
"Perfect, perfect basketball for us to get this game tonight against that caliber of a team," Sixers coach Doug Collins said.
The Celtics missed eight straight baskets over a 6-minute span late in the fourth to lose their eighth conference game of the season.
Lou Williams' jumper just a shade over the 5-minute mark put the Sixers ahead 83-81 and they never trailed again. Jodie Meeks made two free throws after he was hammered by Paul Pierce on a fast break attempt and the Sixers came away with one of their biggest wins of the season.
Nenad Krstic had 16 points and 15 rebounds for the Celtics.
It was an off night for the Big Three: Garnett scored 14 points, Pierce had 11 and Allen five. Jeff Green led Boston with 18 points.
Pierce's jumper late in the third capped a 13-3 run and tied the game at 66. It was a rare burst of hot shooting for the Celtics as the Pierce-Garnett-Allen trio was a combined 11-of-31.
Allen was amused that another team was feeling good about knocking off the Celtics.
"It's interesting that teams use us as a measuring stick," Allen said. "I think that we bring that out of a lot of teams, a lot of players."
The Sixers left the court to a rousing ovation -- their 31-18 record after a 3-13 start has made fans take notice. The sellout crowd, with several pockets colored Celtics green, was standing from the start for this potential first-round playoff series.
"If they keep playing like they're playing, and we're playing like we're playing, it won't be the first round," Brand said. "Maybe the next one."
The Sixers play the next five games on the road, a pivotal stretch for the improving team.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he'd take special note of this one because of the postseason implications.
"I don't know if you put more into the game, but you take more out of the game," he said.
Celtics-Sixers once was one of the NBA's fiercest rivalries. While the series has cooled over the years as the Sixers slid into mediocrity, the atmosphere was hot from the opening tip.
Sixers chairman Ed Snider popped up from his courtside seat, waving his arms in protest over a non-call against his team. When Brand, who needed X-rays on his sore left hand, grabbed a defensive rebound and finished on the other end with a monster dunk, there was an enthusiastic roar that's been absent from Sixers games for much of the last decade.
"It's a feeling that's been missed," Young said. "We're glad it came back tonight and we were able to get a win in front of the home crowd."
The Sixers led 49-45 at halftime and never trailed Boston by more than two points the rest of the way.
"We were dead tired, dead out of it, it looked like," Rivers said.
Rivers expects Glen Davis (strained left patella tendon) to return for Sunday's game against Milwaukee. Rivers said Delonte West (sprained right ankle) was doubtful to play against the Bucks. Rivers won't rush any of the injured Celtics. "We want the 1-seed, but we want health, too," he said. ... 76ers director of statistical information Harvey Pollack, the NBA's only original active employee, received an autographed basketball from Ray Allen. He said "pass on what you know" when Pollack told him he was an original employee.
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