The series between the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers is finally over and the state of basketball is better for it. An ugly, albeit competitive series, had an appropriate ending last night with Game 7 in the Garden. The Celtics won the finale 85-75 in a game every bit as poorly played as the score makes it sound.
Philadelphia only shot 35% from the floor, and that includes a 10-for-34 bricklaying effort on the part of the guard trio of Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner and Lou Williams. But the Sixers covered for a lot with hustle to the offensive glass, getting 13 second-chance rebounds. But the bad shooting was too much to overcome and Boston had a balanced attack. Four starters—Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Brandon Bass had between 15-18 points apiece and Ray Allen was right behind at 11. Allen also hit two big three-pointers in the fourth quarter. Still, when Pierce fouled out with four minutes left, Philly was only down three with a chance to win.
In fact there was every reason to think Philly would win at that point. The Boston offense was anemic at its best points and downright sloppy and careless at its worst, and now the one player most able to create his own shot was gone. Furthermore, the fact Pierce was whistled for two very dubious calls (a foul on a fast break where replays clearly showed he never touched the offensive player and then a charge where the replay just as clearly showed the defender came nowhere close to establishing position)sent a clear message that the marquee team at home wasn’t going to get the usual benefit of the doubt on every call.
But while the big picture in this series is more about who lost it than who won it, there’s no doubt that the closing minutes belonged to one player. Rondo buried one long jumper and then nailed a three-pointer to give the C’s a working margin and send the crowd into a frenzy. That the point guard would win the game with his long-range shooting was about as unthinkable a prospect as there was coming into the game.
Boston now moves on to play Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals starting Monday night. You can preview that series right here. Please also check out the preview of Oklahoma City-San Antonio in the West finals, which tip off this evening in the Alamodome.