Rajon Rondo helped his aging teammates keep their season going Saturday night, finishing with 18 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds in Game 7 against the 76ers to lead Boston to an 85-75 victory and into an Eastern Conference finals matchup with the Miami Heat.
The Celtics will open the third round of the NBA playoffs in Miami on Monday night…
Bouncing back from his worst game of the playoffs – and snapping out of a 32-minute slump in which he had just two assists and five points – Rondo scored nine straight Boston points after Paul Pierce fouled out to help the Celtics turn a three-point edge into a double-digit lead…
Rondo had 11 points in the fourth quarter, including his first 3-pointer in five games, made all four of his free throws down the stretch and grabbed his 10th rebound in the final minute – chucking it over his head and into the frontcourt to help the Celtics dribble down the clock…
Andre Iguodala scored 18 points, and Holiday and Elton Brand had 15 apiece for the 76ers, who eliminated the top-seeded Chicago Bulls in the first round but couldn’t do the same with the Celtics…
Kevin Garnett had 18 points and 13 rebounds for Boston, and Ray Allen hit a pair of fourth-quarter 3-pointers after missing his first five attempts…
The Celtics missed their first 14 attempts from 3-point range and made their last three.
— Reported by Jimmy Golen of the Associated Press
The Celtics led by as many as 11 points early in the second half. But the Sixers rallied and had a chance to regain the lead as Andre Iguodala missed two free throws late in the third quarter.
And the Sixers were within a point early in the fourth quarter before Garnett hit a jumper and Allen broke a 1-for-9 slump with a 3-pointer. And, though the Sixers seemed capable of rallying, as they had throughout this series, they never got closer than 3 points again.
“Defensively, it was a beautiful game for us,’’ Rivers said. “We took away the paint, the way we hadn’t before [in Game 6]. We got out to the 3-point line – they made some, but overall it was pretty good.’’
The Sixers regained hope after Pierce’s straight-on banker made it 71-65 with 4:54 remaining. Iguodala made a 3-pointer and Pierce fouled out after being was whistled for a charge against Thaddeus Young.
Then Rondo began taking over.
— Reported by Frank Dell’Apa of the Boston Globe
Ray Allen grunted and groaned his way to only 11 points, and at one point early in the fourth quarter his stats were appallingly bad — as in 1-for-9 from the floor, and 0-for-5 on 3-point attempts.
With 9:51 remaining, the outcome was, as they say, very much in doubt. The Celts were clinging to a 57-54 lead in this historic slopfest of a game, each team performing as if they’d just as soon see the other guys advance to the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat.
That’s when Ray Allen, he of the bone spur in his ankle the size of the Lowell Connector, finally hit on a shot — a 3-point shot no less, increasing the Celtics’ lead to 60-54.
It’s not like that one shot put the game away. The Sixers would soon get back to within three points and were still in the fight with less than five minutes to go. But the very idea that Allen could make a shot — on that bum leg — was surely an encouraging sign.
— Reported by Steve Buckley of the Boston Herald
Whatever was planned worked better as the Sixers were able to forge ahead by 20-19 late in the quarter despite shooting 6 for 20 and committing three turnovers. They also seemed to be in a good spot as Rondo was strapped to the bench with a pair of fouls.
The Sixers, though, found no better success at the offensive end in the second quarter, missing 13 of their 18 shots and giving the ball away five more times. The turnovers gave the Celtics run-outs, and uncharacteristically the Sixers were outscored on fastbreak points by 13-2 in the first half.
The Sixers made a big comeback in the third quarter until Iguodala missed those two free throws.
Iguodala scored 18 points, while Elton Brand and Holiday each scored 15 for the Sixers.
And now the offseason, which is sure to be a busy one, begins for Philadelphia.
— Reported by Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News