Celtics Overtime is a postgame feature providing analysis. Boston beat the Philadelphia 76ers, 85-75, on Saturday evening in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Quite a few hearts sank when Paul Pierce picked up his sixth foul with 4:16 remaining.
Pierce was whistled for a charge with Boston leading 71-68. He walked slowly to the bench, and you couldn't help but wonder if he was making that walk for the last time in his career.
"I was very disappointed," said Pierce, who finished with 15 points and nine rebounds in 37 minutes. "You know no one goes out there and tries to foul out, especially when its clear our team needs me. You know I was put into situations where the previous two fouls before that, where I felt like I had to take fouls, and I didn't want to give up any easy buckets."
The game was far from over. A three-point lead with four minutes to go is rarely a safe one.
It could have gone either way, and the Big Three Era could have come to a screeching halt.
Of course, Rajon Rondo wasn't going to let that happen, and the performance he turned in over the final 3:39 was simply Rondominant. Or was it Rondiculous? Or Rondonkulous?
Whichever Rondo pun you'd like to use, his play was spectacular, as he carried the Celtics to an 85-75 win in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, eliminating the not-your-average-eighth-seeded 76ers after a hideous (severe understatement) seven game series.
Rondo scored 11 points after Pierce fouled out and recorded his twenty second career triple-double, and his ninth in the postseason, with 18 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds.
"I felt I was part of the reason [Pierce] fouled out," said Rondo, who only had seven points entering the fourth. "I had two bad turnovers. I felt somewhat responsible for it. My night wasn't going well. I just figured stay with it, stay positive and something will happen."
Well, something happened alright. Rondo was motivated, and we all know what happens then. So he pocketed the flashy passes for a little while and put on his scoring hat.
"Well he had no choice, too" said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "That's what makes him good. Rondo wants to run the team, and he's a great quarterback. But tonight, with obviously Paul fouling out he had to take charge of the team, and that's good to see as well."
Rondo bailed out quite a few people with his late game heroics, Pierce in particular.
"I was thankful," said Pierce. "He was able to step up, be aggressive, knock down a couple big threes, got to the bucket. ... You know he felt a sense of urgency, he smelled it. He was able to take over the game with his scoring, and it was just phenomenal to watch."
We all know by now that as Rondo goes, so do the Celtics. That fact was clear on Saturday night, but it will be even more evident in the Celtics' next series against the Miami Heat. Boston was taken out by Miami last season in the second round of the playoff. Rondo was hurt for most of the series, and that severely limited the Celtics, but that's behind them now.
"Last year is in the past. This year we are a totally different team," said the clearly confident Rondo. "We feel we can beat Miami. Obviously we got to this point. There's no doubt in my mind that we can, so we've got to go down there and take care of business."
Boston won't have time for rest, as the East Finals begin on Monday. Alas, they'll be ready.
"We'll be ready on Monday," said Rivers. "We've got the long flight. As a staff, the good thing about the three-hour flight is three hour film for us. So we can look at that. I've already packed, so I can watch film tonight. We'll be ready. It's going to be a tough turnaround, but listen, we're not an excuse team. We'll be ready on Monday."
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