Rajon Rondo’s 18 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists sparked the Boston Celtics to an 85-75 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers to advance to the National Basketball Association’s Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat.
The Celtics, who won the seven-game series 4-3, travel to Miami tomorrow for Game 1 against the Heat, who won their second-round series 4-2 over the Indiana Pacers. In the Western Conference finals, the San Antonio Spurs host the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 1 tonight.
Rondo’s ninth playoff triple-double ties him with Wilt Chamberlain, who is fourth on the career list behind Magic Johnson (30), Jason Kidd (11) and Larry Bird (10). Rondo was held to seven points in the first three quarters and then scored nine straight after Paul Pierce fouled out with 4:10 left in the game.
“Rondo wants to run the team” coach Doc Rivers said in a televised press conference. “He’s a great quarterback. When Paul fouled out he had to take over.”
“It’s a team effort and we won like a team,” Rondo said.
The 76ers fought back from a 41-33 halftime deficit to trail 55-54 on Thaddeus Young’s tip-in with 10 minutes, 56 seconds left in the final quarter.
“I thought if we could get 85, we could win,” said Philadelphia coach Doug Collins. “We just never could get back over the top. Rondo took over the game in the last four or five minutes.”
Andre Iguodala scored 18 points and Jrue Holiday and Elton Brand added 15 points each for the 76ers.
The Heat lost 4-2 last year to Dallas after beating the Mavericks 4-2 in 2005-06 for their last championship title.
The Celtics beat Los Angeles 4-2 in 2007-08 and then lost to the Lakers in the final game of the series in 2009-10.
“They’re going to have a hard-fought series against the Heat,” Collins said.
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