BOSTON -- Looking back, Elton Brand saw the missed opportunity.
When Paul Pierce fouled out with 4:16 to go in the fourth quarter, the Philadelphia 76ers were still within striking distance to overcome the Celtics three-point lead.
But they didnt.
We didn't attack those guys as aggressively as we should have with such a prolific scorer on the bench, Brand said after the Celtics 85-75 Game 7 win.
Instead, the Celtics rallied around their captain and pulled together a 14-7 run to close out the Eastern Conference Semifinals and advance to the Conference Finals against the Miami Heat.
Pierce was frustrated to watch his team from the sidelines, but proud after he watched them pull together.
I was very disappointed, said Pierce (15 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists). No one goes out there and tries to foul out. I want to be out there and play when my team needs me. But I was put in a situation to where the previous two fouls before that where I felt like I had to take fouls, didnt want to give up any easy buckets. At the end of the day, its all for the team. Our coach is always saying give yourself up for the team, and thats what I was trying to do.
With Pierce on the bench, Rondo scored the Celtics next nine points and the Celtics pushed the lead to 10 four times. They clamped down on defense and stopped the 76ers from putting together another streaky run like they had done at points throughout the series.
Rather than lamenting a season-ending loss without their captain down the stretch, the Celtics are looking ahead to their trip to South Beach Sunday morning.
It says a lot, said Pierce. With me out, one of our primary scoring options, guys came together, showed some resolve. Other guys stepped up defensively. Offensively, Rondo did what he had to do and were sitting here talking about going to Miami tomorrow. So its a great feeling, especially not being able to play the last few minutes.