Three things we learned in Boston's 85-75 win Saturday night at TD Garden:
When Paul Pierce went to the sideline after fouling out, with the Celtics clinging to a three-point lead, it spelled disaster for Boston.
Philadelphia had hung around, hung around, hung around – and now they could attack Boston without its go-to guy. But Rajon Rondo had other ideas.
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Rondo took control of the game, deciding to put a pathetic offense into his own hands. He scored the team’s next nine points, refusing to let the Celtics’ season come to an end. Rondo finished with a triple-double -- 18 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists -- but his play towards the end of the fourth with the C's captain out of the game was the real story.
Based on the way each team’s offense played, it’s almost a shame that one of them gets to go play in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Just looking at the numbers, you’d think it was a battle for the best chance at the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming NBA draft. The Sixers shot just 35 percent from the field, 5-of-18 from 3-point range. Tack on 15 turnovers too. The Celtics? Not much better.
They shot 42.5 percent from the field, but just 3-of-17 from 3-point range with one less turnover than Philly. The difference though had to be fast-break points, as Boston beat the 76ers at their own game, totaling 14 fast break points to 76ers' six.
What’s next for both?
Philly has nothing to be ashamed of. They’re a young squad that only looks to get better as the years go by, assuming the nucleus of their team stays together. They proved that they could hang with the big boys after flopping towards the end of the regular season.
Chalk that slump up to growing pains, but their commendable rebound will pay dividends next season. As for the Celtics, they continue to win against all odds. Old age, injuries, you name it – nobody thought they’d be going to the Eastern Conference Finals a couple months ago. The Miami Heat – with or without Chris Bosh – will prove to be their biggest challenge yet.