In the long and storied history of the most decorated team in NBA history, the Boston Celtics took to the floor last Saturday night for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

There was drama before the opening tip, but it was clear that coming out with a win was going to be an uphill battle forPhiladelphia, despite the urging from Head Coach Doug Collins, who one-time played guard for the 76ers.

And so what transpired, an 85-75 Boston victory, was wholly expected given all that came before with players like Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, John Havlicek, Tom Heinsohn, Bill Sharman, Sam Jones, Dave Cowens, K.C. Jones, Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson, and so many other Hall of Famers who helped the Celtics win a record 17 banners.

“This is our reward,” said center Kevin Garnett, who dropped in 18 points with a game-best 13 rebounds. “This is why we play.”

The Celtics shot 42.5 percent from the floor, were out-rebounded 45-44 by the 76ers, and still managed to put away a stubborn 76ers team, and will face the Miami Heat in the East Finals.

If there was a difference, it was the play ofBostonpoint guard Rajon Rondo, who scored nine consecutive points late in the fourth quarter after small forward Paul Pierce (15 points with nine rebounds) fouled out.

Rondo tallied five points, five rebounds and five assists at the intermission, and finished with 18 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds.

Shooting guard Ray Allen (11 points) made two three-pointers in the fourth quarter after missing all five in the opening stanza whenBostonled 41-33.

Allen canned three of 11 shots from the field, but is fighting ankle problems. Allen, the all-time NBA three-point maker, may have felt the pressure.

“We told him to shoot,” said Garnett. “He’s a shooter. He’s going to make those shots.”

The Celtics entered the final quarter ahead 55-52, and when Garnett nailed a 12-footer with 8:40 left,Bostonled 62-55.

WhenPhiladelphiasmall forward Andre Iguodala (18 points and four rebounds) converted two free throws,Boston’s advantage was cut to 69-65 with 5:05 left.

Pierce fouled out with 4:16 showing, and Rondo went into attack mode. Rondo’s hoop with 2:47 left on the clock gave the host Celtics a 75-68 edge, and it swelled to double-digits.

Bostonshot 38 percent from the floor in the first half compared to 28 percent for the 76ers, and opened a 10-2 advantage with 8:14 remaining in the opening quarter as power forward Brandon Bass (16 points and four assists) scored, as did Garnett who hit a 15-foot fallaway.

After Philadelphia power forward Elton Brand (15 points with six boards) made a 10-footer, Boston’s lead was 15-12 with 2:40 left, and the 76ers (35 percent from the floor) outscored the Celtics 8-5 to close the initial quarter.

Boston pulled in front 25-22 with 8:29 left in the second quarter, and led 32-26 with 5:17 showing after 76ers’ center Spencer Hawes (five caroms and four points) hit a layup on a pass from point guard Jrue Holiday (15 points with nine assists).

With 5:07 showing in the third quarter,Bostonwas in control 49-45, and then went on a 4-0 spurt.

Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at richsports5@sbcglobal.net.

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