Sunday, May 27, 2012
Celtics Gut Out 85-75 Game 7 Win Vs. Sixers, Bring On Miami
Boston is now 21-7 all-time in Game 7s (4-2 in the Big 4 era) and that victory sets up the juicy matchup in the Eastern Conference Finals that we all wanted: Celtics vs. Miami Heat. Now everyone else in the world will be jumping on the Celtics' bandwagon since the Heat are the most hated team in professional sports.
Rajon Rondo (18 points, 10 assists, 10 rebounds) had his 22nd career triple-double (9th in the playoffs) and take a guess what Boston's record is in those 22 games: 21-1. So yeah, Rondo is somewhat important to their basketball team. It was far from a one-man show since for the first time all postseason every starter scored in double figures. Kevin Garnett had 18 points and 13 rebounds, Brandon Bass scored 16, Paul Pierce filled the stat sheet with 15 points, nine rebounds, three blocks, two steals and Ray Allen (11 points) came back from the dead to hit a pair of dagger 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.
The Sixers fought the Celtics tooth and nail and they have nothing to be ashamed of since they go home for the summer with the second-most wins (7) ever for a No. 8 seed in the NBA playoffs, trailing only the 1999 Knicks that made the NBA Finals. Doug Collins' team plays great defense and is unselfish but they are a consistent scorer away from being a true obstacle in the Eastern Conference in the near future.
Andre Iguodala led the Sixers with 18 points, Elton Brand had 15 points and Jrue Holiday put up 15 points, nine assists and five steals. Thaddeus Young pulled down 10 rebounds off the Philly bench which outscored Boston's 17-7.
Rondo essentially saved the Big 4 era by taking over after Pierce fouled out with 4:16 left in regulation and Boston holding a slim 71-68 lead. Rondo scored the next nine points by himself which went layup, long 2-pointer (that was initially called a 3 but he had his foot on the line), rhythm 3-pointer and two free throws. To close out the game he went 4 for 4 from the free throw line and 3 for 3 from the floor. That is Rondo in a nutshell, just when you think you've figured him out (which is impossible), he does something absurd like that. He's the most frustrating yet unstoppable force in the NBA and that I can ever remember on the four Boston teams in my lifetime.
It was tied 20-20 after the first quarter and Boston led 41-33 at halftime. KG's jumper at the buzzer saved the C's from an awful third quarter (outscored 19-14) and gave them a 3-point lead (55-52) heading into the fourth quarter.
In a seven-game series where the Sixers never scored over 92 points, the Celtics saved their best defensive effort for last as they held Philly to a horrid 35.0% shooting from the field while Boston shot 42.5%. The other vital numbers were the Celtics free throw shooting (20 of 22) vs. the Sixers (14 of 20), blocks (6-1) and fastbreak points (14-5). That shows an older team buckling down and seizing the moment with what got them here.
Most will give the Celtics no shot against the Heat and that's the way I want it and they like it. Let Miami have all the pressure, we know how LeBron responds in those type of situations. Obviously with no break and heading to Miami for Game 1 on Monday night (8:30 p.m., ABC), the Heat will be rested and ready to go. All the C's have to do is win a road game (more likely Game 2) and flip the series. It sounds like Chris Bosh will miss the series so that's some good news for Boston.
This is the third time in five seasons (during the Big Four era) that they've made the Eastern Conference Finals. It's also the fourth time in the past five years that they've faced LeBron in the postseason. The Celtics are not scared of the Heat and they went 3-1 against them during the regular season, this is going to be a tougher series than most think.