Celtics top Sixers, 85-75, advance to Eastern Conference Finals

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Celtics top Sixers, 85-75, advance to Eastern Conference Finals

BOSTON In the final seconds, Rajon Rondo did what Rajon Rondo seems to always do in big games - deliver in ways you least expect.

Sometimes it's assists. Other times, it's rebounds.

On Saturday, it was a 3-point shot in the fourth quarter that would serve as one of several big plays made by Rondo in helping the C's advance to the Eastern Conference finals with a 85-75 Game 7 win over Philadelphia.

The C's will now face the Miami Heat, with Game 1 in Miami on Monday.

Rondo was as clutch as we've seen him in this series, finishing Game 7 with a triple-double of 18 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds.

His play was among the many strong performances by the Celtics, who move on to the Eastern Conference finals for the third time in the Big Three era.

Boston also got big games from Kevin Garnett (18 points, 13 rebounds), Brandon Bass (16 points) and Paul Pierce (15 points, nine rebounds) before he fouled out with more than five minutes to play and the Celtics clinging to a three-point lead at the time. Although Ray Allen didn't shoot the ball that well, he was able to knock down a pair of 3-pointers in the second half that were like most Allen 3-pointers - quite timely. He had 11 points.

For the eighth-seeded Sixers, they were led by Andre Iguodala's 18 points along with 15 points and nine assists from Jrue Holiday.

Boston seemingly had a firm grip on the game until they came up on the short end of a 7-0 run near the end of the third quarter.

But the C's still managed to take a slim 55-52 lead into the fourth after a buzzer-beating jumper by Garnett to end the third.

The down-to-the-wire finish was so not how the game started for the Celtics, who seemed intent on delivering an early knockout punch akin to what they did in a 16-point Game Five win on the Garden floor.

With a loud, vibrant, early-arriving crowd, the Boston Celtics gave them plenty to cheer for as they opened the game with a 10-2 run before Sixers coach Doug Collins, looking to stop the bleeding, called a time-out with 8:14 to play in the first.

As they have done throughout this series, the Sixers chipped away at the Celtics deficit behind a 10-5 surge of their own to make it a 15-12 game before Doc Rivers called a time-out with 2:40 to play.

Philadelphia, well aware of how short-handed the Celtics are without Avery Bradley (season-ending left shoulder surgery on Friday), knew the C's would need Rondo to become a bigger factor in defending the Sixers guards.

So they put him in as many pick-and-roll situations as possible, with the goal clearly being to wear him down. Rondo got some rest in the first, but not the kind he would have preferred.

C's coach Doc Rivers took Rondo out shortly after he picked up his second personal foul of the quarter, resulting in him sitting the final 2:40 of the quarter. The Sixers were able to make the most of Rondo's absence, eventually take the lead briefly, 20-19, on a 3-point play by Lou Williams.

However, Garnett made the first of two free throws which would be the final points of the quarter which ended with the score tied at 20.

The second quarter was like so many games between these two teams - low on points, low on being aesthetically pleasing but high on intensity.

The teams were more than halfway through the quarter when a time-out was called with 5:17 to play, and the two had combined to score 16 points in the quarter at that point.

Fortunately for the C's, 10 of those 16 points belonged to them.

And coming out of the time-out, Bass added a couple more on with free throws that put the C's ahead 32-26.

Points continued to be hard to come by for both teams, but it wasn't necessarily because of great defense.

Both teams - but especially the Celtics - were failing to resist the temptation that SHE presents.

She goes by many names.

Around here, we call her the jump-shot.

It wasn't coincidental that a back-to-the-basket bucket from Kevin Garnett put the Celtics ahead by four points, but just as important, seemed to be just the spark they needed to make a strong push to end the second quarter and take a 41-33 lead into the half.

2017 NBA title odds are out, Celtics rank second in the East

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2017 NBA title odds are out, Celtics rank second in the East

Teams are still fighting for the 2016 Larry O’Brien Trophy, but the 2017 NBA title opening odds have already been released by the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook. The Warriors unsurprisingly come in as heavy 3/2 favorites. The Cavaliers already punched their ticket for this year’s finals and are second, with 5/2 odds. Then there’s the Spurs, Thunder, and Clippers, as you’d expect rounding off the top five.

But then there’s the Celtics with 20/1 odds -- sixth-best in the NBA -- to raise Banner 18.

With eight draft picks and a chunk of cap space, the Celtics are in a position to capitalize on any opportunities that may come their way. There is a lot of uncertainty at this point in the NBA calendar, so Vegas must be hedging their bets on the Celtics making a leap towards contender status.

Celtics fans will also be happy to know the Nets have 500/1 odds to hoist the trophy next season, which ranks last of all teams. The Celtics have the right to swap first-round picks with the Nets in the 2017 draft, which could give them another swing at a superstar prospect.

For full draft profiles of players the Celtics could draft this year, click here.

Team Opening odds
Golden State Warriors 3/2
Cleveland Cavaliers 5/2
San Antonio Spurs 6/1
Oklahoma City Thunder 8/1
Los Angeles Clippers 16/1
Boston Celtics 20/1
Toronto Raptors 25/1
Miami Heat 25/1
Chicago Bulls 40/1
Atlanta Hawks 40/1
Minnesota Timberwolves 60/1
New Orleans Pelicans 60/1
Houston Rockets 60/1
Portland Trail Blazers 60/1
Memphis Grizzlies 80/1
Utah Jazz 80/1
Charlotte Hornets 80/1
Washington Wizards 100/1
Indiana Pacers 100/1
Dallas Mavericks 100/1
Milwaukee Bucks 100/1
Detroit Pistons 100/1
Los Angeles Lakers 100/1
New York Knicks 100/1
Sacramento Kings 100/1
Philadelphia 76ers 100/1
Orlando Magic 100/1
Denver Nuggets 100/1
Phoenix Suns 300/1
Brooklyn Nets 500/1

Warriors force Game 7 with 108-101 win over Thunder

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Warriors force Game 7 with 108-101 win over Thunder

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Klay Thompson made a playoff-record 11 3-pointers and scored 41 points, and the defending champion Golden State Warriors forced a seventh game in the Western Conference finals with a 108-101 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday night.

Stephen Curry bounced back from a slow start to finish with 29 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.

The Warriors, who set the league's regular-season record with 73 wins, will host Game 7 on Monday. The winner will play Cleveland in the NBA Finals.

Oklahoma City dominated Games 3 and 4 at home, but the Warriors made 21 of 44 3-pointers on Saturday, while Oklahoma City was 3 of 23.

Kevin Durant scored 29 points and Russell Westbrook added 28 for the Thunder. But Durant made just 10 of 31 shots and Westbrook was 10 of 27.

Trying to become the 10th team to overcome a 3-1 deficit, the Warriors trailed much of the game and trailed by eight going to the fourth quarter.

Thompson kept them in it with four 3-pointers in just over seven minutes to start the period. Curry then hit two 3s, the second of which tied the game at 99 with 2:47 to play.

Thompson's 3 with 1:35 to play put the Warriors up 104-101.

The Thunder, who blew a number of fourth-quarter leads during the regular season, fell apart in the final minutes after Golden State had finally gone ahead for good.

Westbrook lost control of the ball, and after Thompson missed a 3, Westbrook turned the ball over again. Curry's layup with 14.3 seconds to play put the Warriors up by five, the Thunder turned it over again, and the Warriors were in the clear.

The Thunder led 23-20 after one quarter, then seized momentum early in the second. Steven Adams' powerful one-handed dunk on Draymond Green drew a roar from the crowd and gave Oklahoma City a 37-28 lead. Green, who had hit Adams in the groin area twice during the series, was a constant target for the vocal Thunder fans.

Thompson opened the second half with back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Warriors a 54-53 edge, but the Thunder closed the quarter strong and led 83-75 heading into the fourth.