It was tougher than many expected, but the Celtics have advanced to the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat.
The Celtics, seeking their NBA-best 18th title, beat the Philadelphia 76ers 85-75 Saturday night to win the seventh game of the series and set up the meeting with the Heat, the first two games in Miami Monday and Wednesday nights.
The home crowd chanted "Beat the Heat" in the final minute.
When the game ended, Celtics coach Doc Rivers and Philadelphia counterpart Doug Collins embraced at center court.
The Celtics took the season series from Miami, 3-1, with Boston's only loss coming with Paul Pierce out of the lineup, in the second game of the abbreviate schedule. The last of the four games was played with both teams resting their key players.
Rajon Rondo (18 points, 10 assists, 10 rebounds) scored nine consecutive Boston points over a 1:54 span late and 11 in the final 3:39 to put the game away.
The Celtics, becoming the fourth team in NBA history to reach a conference final after being under .500 at the All-Star break, didn't play a perfect game Saturday night by any means, but had enough to finish off the young Sixers.
Ray Allen, 1-for-9 from the floor and 0-for-5 from 3-point range through 38 minutes, nailed a pair of fourth-quarter 3-pointers. Kevin Garnett also was huge in the final quarter. Late in the period, Rondo took over, even hitting a pair of long-range jumpers, one a 3-pointer and one a three changed to a two upon review.
The Celtics won despite losing Pierce to his sixth foul with 4:16 remaining.
Garnett finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds, Brandon Bass scored 16 points and Pierce 15 points and nine rebounds.
Andre Iguodola had 18 points in the loss, but committed two costly turnovers and missed 3-of-4 free throws at the end of the third quarter and into the fourth.
Before the game, Collins said the thing that concerned him most was his team's penchant for going through long "droughts" on the offensive end. His worst fears were realized right out of the gate, with the Sixers missing nine of their first 10 shots while falling behind by eight points at 10-2 and 12-4.
But, the Celtics probably should have led by more. The visitors rebounded from the tough start to rally and tie the game at 17-17 on a contested 3-pointer by Iguodala.
Philly took its first lead of the game on an old-fashioned 3-point play by Louis Williams and the game was tied 20-20 after the first quarter.
Another Philadelphia drought threatened to give the Celtics control of the game in the first half of the second quarter, as the Sixers went almost five minutes with a basket.
The Celtics opened a six-point lead. Boston was making just enough mistakes and the big guns were missing just enough shots to keep things close, but the Celtics led by eight at the half, despite shooting just 37.5 percent from the floor and missing all nine of their 3-point attempts.
NOTES: Boston guard Keyon Dooling, who missed Friday's practice with flu-like symptoms but is needed with Avery Bradley gone with shoulder surgery, hit an old-fashioned 3-point play to break a 22-22 tie with 9:55 left in the half. ... The "Let's Go Celtics" chants began at TD Garden before the teams even came out for warm-ups. ... The Celtics came in 20-7 all-time in the seventh games of series, 17-4 at their two Gardens. The Sixers were 6-8 in Game 7s overall. ... Collins before the game on his team: "I have so much respect for our guys and how they've grown to win these pressure games."... The game was played on the 25th anniversary of Larry Bird stealing the ball and feeding Dennis Johnson to beat the Pistons.