Rondo leads Celtics to Game 7 win over 76ers

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Rondo leads Celtics to Game 7 win over 76ers

BOSTON - Rajon Rondo had 18 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds to lead the Boston Celtics to an 85-75 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 7 of the NBA Eastern Conference semifinals on Saturday night to advance to the finals.

The Celtics will open the third round of the NBA playoffs in Miami against the Heat on Monday night.

Rondo scored 9 straight Boston points, helping the Celtics turn a 3-point edge into a double-digit lead after Paul Pierce fouled out with 4:16 left in the game.

Andre Iguodala scored 18 points, and Elton Brand and Jrue Holiday had 15 apiece for the 76ers, who eliminated the top-seeded Chicago Bulls in the first round but couldn’t do the same against the Celtics.

Kevin Garnett had 18 points and 13 rebounds, and Ray Allen hit a pair of fourth-quarter 3-pointers after missing his first five attempts. Pierce had 15 points and nine rebounds before fouling out.

That’s when Rondo took over.

The point guard, rebounding from his worst performance of the playoffs in Game 6, scored on a baseline drive and followed it up with a long jump-shot with 2:47 left.

He then made a 3-pointer with a little more than two minutes left and hit a pair of free throws to leave Boston with an 80-70 lead with 1:44 left.

After Holiday made a 3-pointer to cut the lead to seven, Garnett went to the line with just under a minute left and made one of two shots.

Rondo then made another pair of free throws with 54 seconds left and Allen followed with a pair as the crowd chanted “Beat the Heat!’’

Miami advanced to the conference finals by eliminating the Indiana Pacers in six games.

The Heat beat Boston in five games in the conference semifinals last year. In 2010, the Celtics eliminated the Heat in the first round and then knocked LeBron James and the Cavaliers out in the second round - his final game with Cleveland before defecting to Miami.

Boston got off to a fast start in Saturday’s game, taking a 10-2 lead thanks to four assists and two rebounds from Rondo in the first three minutes. The Sixers tied it before the end of the quarter, but the Celtics again pulled ahead and took a 41-33 lead into the half.

The lead grew to 11 before the Sixers scored 7 straight points and then, trailing 53-45, they scored another 7 in a row to cut the deficit to a point.

AP

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