Basketball: Celtics punch their ticket to Eastern Conference finals

Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo drives against Philadelphia 76ers forward Andre Iguodala, right, during the fourth quarter of Game 7. Photo / AP
Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo drives against Philadelphia 76ers forward Andre Iguodala, right, during the fourth quarter of Game 7. Photo / AP

The Boston Celtics punched their ticket to the NBA Eastern Conference finals today with an 85-75 victory over Philadelphia behind a "triple-double" by Rajon Rondo.

Rondo scored 18 points with 10 assists and 10 rebounds as the Celtics won the decisive game seven in the second-round series.

The Celtics will have little time to relax. They open the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals in Miami against the star-studded Heat on Monday night. That winner will face San Antonio or Oklahoma City in the NBA Finals.

The Celtics led by three points when Paul Pierce fouled out with 4:16 remaining.

Rondo scored Boston's next nine points as the Celtics stretched their advantage to double digits.

Rondo scored 11 points in the final quarter and notched his ninth career playoff "triple-double".

As the final seconds ticked off the clock, Boston fans began chanting "Beat the Heat!".

Celtics' veteran Kevin Garnett, who had 18 points and 13 rebounds, echoed the sentiment.

"Let's do it!" Garnett said of tackling the Miami team led by NBA Most Valuable Player LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

It will mark the third straight post-season that the Heat and Celtics meet.

Boston won in five games in 2010 in the first round and the Heat won in five last year in the second round.

Brandon Bass scored 16 and Pierce ended with 15 points and nine rebounds for Boston.

Andre Iguodala scored 18 points for Philadelphia, which had eliminated injury-plagued top seed Chicago in the first round.

Iguodala drained a three-pointer from the left corner with just over four minutes remaining to pull Philadelphia within 71-68.

Pierce then fouled out, but Rondo made sure the Sixers couldn't take advantage.

-AAP

- APNZ

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