BOSTON — Philadelphia's Charles Barkley had a feeling that a lot of people had their minds on the Super Bowl, but unfortunately for the 76ers, that didn't include the Boston Celtics.
With Kevin McHale scoring 30 points, including 14 in a third-period blowout, Boston beat Philadelphia, 111-96, for its fifth consecutive Super Bowl Sunday victory.
"We just played terrible," Barkley said. "We got beat by a great team. A lot of people were thinking about the Super Bowl out there, not the game."
Boston Coach K.C. Jones said, "It was a mud fight in there and we came out on the good side. Our defense was tremendous. Defense was the thing that did it for us. Our guys were really scrapping and coming up with the ball."
Julius Erving, who had only six points after a pre-game standing ovation that was joined in by the Celtics, put it this way: "They had a very simple game plan and stuck with it. We can't play half-court basketball with Boston and hope to contend. Our game was not there."
With their 55th consecutive Boston Garden victory over an Eastern Conference rival since a loss to Milwaukee just before the 1985 playoffs, the Celtics reached the halfway mark of the NBA season 30-11, seven games ahead of the 76ers in the Atlantic Division.
With Larry Bird scoring nine of his 17 points in the first period, the Celtics charged to a 27-17 lead. Philadelphia closed to within 42-39, but Boston went on a 12-6 run for a 54-45 halftime lead.
Then Boston's big front line of McHale, Bird and Robert Parish took command and Boston outscored Philadelphia, 33-15, in the third period to widen the lead to 87-60.
Leading, 56-48, in the second minute of the quarter, the Celtics went on a 22-3 spree, including 17 points in a row.
Then, after two baskets by the 76ers, Boston went on another 9-2 run for a 30-point advantage.
The Celtics, 9-8 in afternoon games on Super Bowl Sunday, went ahead by 31 points at the outset of the final period. Philadelphia scored 13 consecutive points on an 18-2 charge, but Boston quickly regrouped.
Parish scored 21 points and Danny Ainge 16 as the Celtics posted their third consecutive victory and their 20th in 21 games at the Garden this season. Their only loss was to the Lakers last month.
Andrew Toney, returning from the injured ranks, led the 76ers with 21 points, including 10 in the final minutes. Barkley was next with 18, all but one in the first half.