HANG TIME PLAYOFF HEADQUARTERS — With a slim three-point lead and their closer heading to the bench with four minutes and change left to play, few people inside TD Garden would have chosen Rajon Rondo as the man to save the Celtics’ Game 7 bacon against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Rondo was mysteriously missing in action for most of the first 44 minutes of the biggest game, to date, of the Celtics’ season. But he turned it on when it mattered most, scoring 11 of the 12 points, including nine straight, in the three minutes after Paul Pierce fouled out with 4:16 to play.
The Celtics’ famed Big 3 is officially a Plus-1 now, since they’re moving on to the Eastern Conference finals to face the Miami Heat Monday night because of the late-game heroics of the one member of the band least known for his offensive prowess.
Rondo knocked down a driving layup and two deep jumpers (one was initially called a 3-pointer but later changed to a 2-pointer after being reviewed and the second was a 3-pointer well behind the line) to extend the Celtics’ lead back to double digits while Pierce was still getting settled in his seat on the bench to watch the final minutes of the Celtics’ 85-75 win.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers had no fear with Rondo stepping up for both shots, the first to beat the shot clock and the second a dagger Rondo stepped into like he was as sharpshooter instead of an All-Star point guard known best for setting the table for his teammates and being one of the best defensive and rebounding points guards in league history.