BOSTON The Boston Celtics closed out their second round series with the Sixers by handing them an 85-75 Game 7 loss.
And they did it without something that the winner in the previous six games all did - win the third quarter.
On Saturday, Boston had a 55-52 lead going into the fourth quarter, but they were out-scored 19-14, in the third.
"No one played great," said Celtics guard Rajon Rondo. "But we found a way to get the win."
Limiting turnovers was one of the keys to Boston's previous three wins, victories that came about in part because they only averaged 10.6 turnovers. But on Saturday, Boston turned the ball over 15 times which led to 21 points for the Sixers.
Despite the turnovers, Boston's defense once again came to the rescue.
Philadelphia is one of the better teams in finding ways to generate offense in transition after getting defensive stops or forcing turnovers.
On Sunday, Boston limited them to just four fast-break points while tallying 14 fast-break points of their own.
Those were just a couple of factors in Boston's Game 7 wins that catapults them to the Eastern Conference finals where they'll face a well-rested Miami Heat squad. Here are some other keys outlined prior to the game, and how they actually played out as the C's snapped a two-game Game 7 losing streak with Sunday's win.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Celtics are an older bunch, so maybe there's some truth to the thought that it takes them a while to get going. That certainly has been the case in most of the six games thus far against Philadelphia. In each of their three wins, Boston has trailed at the end of the first quarter only to bounce back and win the second quarter. No team likes to get down early, but it seems to be just what the Celtics have needed in order to be successful.
WHAT WE SAW: The Celtics didn't trail after the first quarter (the score was tied at 20), but they did deliver a strong second quarter showing that put them ahead, 41-33, at the half. Boston closed out the half by scoring seven of its last eight points.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett vs. Elton Brand: This was about as lopsided a matchup as there was for the Celtics through the first three games. Since then, Brand has made this duel far more competitive. For the Celtics to win, Garnett has to do more than just score and rebound. He has to establish his presence around the basket, something he failed to do during the C's Game 6 loss in which he had 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. "Even though Kevin had points, it wasn't the points we needed, the type of points. So we have to do a better job there (going into Game Seven)."
WHAT WE SAW: Both struggled with their shot in the first half, but the edge early on had to go to Garnett who was able to get to the free throw line and was doing a better job on the boards. Garnett finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds while Brand tallied 15 points and six rebounds before fouling out.
PLAYER TO WATCH: This is the biggest - and potentially last - game of the season for the Celtics, the kind of scenario that tends to bring out the best in Rajon Rondo. When you throw in the fact that his Jrue Holiday (20 points, six assists) outplayed him in Game 6, a Rondo-esque performance in the triple-double neighborhood would not come as a surprise to anyone. Improved ball movement is one of the keys that all of the C's - Rondo included - have pointed to as being critical to their success in Game Seven tonight. "The ball stuck in Game Six," Rondo said. "Everyone tried to make the home run plays. It's not a bad thing everyone wants to do well for each other. The way we got to this situation, is moving the ball, sharing the ball. We have to go back to the basics and continue to try and get better."
WHAT WE SAW: Foul trouble limited Rondo to some degree in the first half, but he went into the half very much on track for the all-too-predictable triple-double kind of night Rondo seems to have in these kind of games. At the half, he was literally halfway to a triple-double with five points, five assists and five rebounds. Rondo finished with his ninth triple-double with 18 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Among Rondo's clutch plays down the stretch, was a 3-pointer that put the Celtics ahead by 10 points with 2:09 to play. "The 3-point shot, obviously, was big," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "But more, his attack and command."
STAT TO TRACK: Being the aggressor has been the one ingredient for success throughout this series, and nowhere is this more noticeable than at the free throw line. For the Celtics, getting to the free throw line - a lot - will be an absolute must for them to win. In their three victories in this series, the Celtics are averaging 26.7 free throw attempts. In the three losses, that number plummets to 17 per game. The numbers are pretty comparable for the Sixers. In their three wins, they're averaging 27 free throw attempts compared to 19.3 in their three defeats.
WHAT WE SAW: Free throw shooting was not a major factor in the first half, with the Celtics and Sixers having 12 and 11 attempts, respectively. Even more impressive was that Sixers, a horrible free throw shooting team throughout this series, was 10-for-11 while the Celtics were just as impressive in successfully nailing 11 of their 12 free throw attempts. For the game, Boston was 20-for-22 from the line while the Sixers were a not-so-stellar 14 of 20.