The Boston Celtics have stamped their ticket to the Eastern Conference Finals by knocking off the Philadelphia 76ers 85-75 in the seventh and final game of the series Saturday night.
Rajon Rondo messed around and got a triple-double in the game with 18 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists while teammate Kevin Garnett achieved a double-double in the win with 18 points and a game-high 13 boards.
Paul Pierce narrowly missed recording a double-double as he was one rebound short of the mark. He finished with 15 points and nine rebounds before fouling out of the game with four minutes to go in the fourth quarter. Brandon Bass (16) and Ray Allen (11) were also in double-figures.
The 76ers were led by Andre Igoudala who had 18 points in the game on 5-of-11 shooting in a game-high 44 minutes of action. Point guard Jrue Holiday and 12-year veteran Elton Brand chipped in with 15 points each. The other two starters, Evan Turner (6) and Spencer Hawes (4), along with the four bench players scored 27 points collectively.
Boston scored the first six points in the contest and jumped out to an early 10-2 lead over Philadelphia on Rondo’s fourth assist in the first four minutes of the game.
The 76ers then responded with a run of their own and tied the game up 17-17 thanks to Iguodala’s 3-point make with 1:40 remaining in the opening period. The quarter ended with the teams tied 20-20.
Brand had a great start to the game as he knocked down three-of-five shots from the field and hit both free-throws for eight points while grabbing a pair of rebounds in the first 12 minutes of the game.
The C’s started to pull away in the second quarter due in part to good team defense as they limited Philly’s offense to just 13 points in the period. Boston was nursing a 32-30 lead after 76er center Spencer Hawes’ dunk cut the deficit to two points but Boston clamped down on defense and went on a 9-3 spurt in the remaining four and a half minutes to go up 41-33 at halftime.
The Celtics extended the lead to 49-38, the largest lead of the game, by the 8:03 mark in the third quarter but Philadelphia responded in the following seven minutes with a 14-4 run as they scrapped and clawed their way back to dwindle down the deficit to just one point with 34 seconds remaining in the period. Garnett hit a 14-ft jumper as the quarter expired to give Boston a 55-52 advantage heading into the final 12 minutes of the game.
Igoudala drained a 3-pointer with 4:30 left in the fourth quarter to keep the 76ers within striking distance, 71-68, and had the chance to take control when 14 seconds later, Pierce was called for an offensive foul as he drove into the lane and collided with Thaddeus Young who was there to step in and take the charge, drawing Pierce’s sixth and final foul of the game.
Now with their closer on the bench, Boston need someone to step up now more than ever.
That’s when Rondo took over.
In a two minute span he scored nine straight points, including a long 23-ft jumper and a rare 3-pointer on the next possession, to help the Celtics turn a three-point edge into a double-digit lead to put Boston up 78-68 with 2:09 remaining.
Rondo, Garnett and Allen then sank seven-of-eight free-throws down the stretch to close out the game and seal the 85-75 victory.
The Celtics will open the Eastern Conference Finals in Miami against the Heat on Monday night (5/28) at 8:30 PM (ET).