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Rondo, Celtics stage winning rally; Boston's 23-7 run dooms Philadelphia

Rajon Rondo has made dozens of last-second dashes to the basket.

This time, he went in the opposite direction.

The Celtics point guard ran into the backcourt, grabbing the inbounds pass in stride, avoiding a foul and dribbling out the final 3.4 seconds to clinch Boston's 92-91 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night in the opener of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.

"I feel like I could out-quick him. That's what I did," Rondo said. "We knew they had a foul to give. I told Doc [Rivers] to get me the ball and I could use my speed."

Rondo had 17 assists, 13 points and 12 rebounds for his eighth career playoff triple-double. He had six points, five assists and four rebounds in the fourth quarter, when the Celtics went on a 23-7 run to turn a double-digit deficit into a six-point lead with 78 seconds to play.

"He's an amazing player. He really is," Sixers coach Doug Collins said. "He takes that ball wherever he wants to take it on the floor."

Kevin Garnett scored 29 points -- his most in the regular or postseason this year -- and added 11 rebounds to help Boston maintain home-court advantage in the best-of-seven, second-round series. Game Two is Monday night in Boston before the series shifts to Philadelphia for Games Three and Four.

"If you've watched us all season, we're not going to drop our heads," Collins said. "We live to come back and fight just as hard in Game Two, at least as long as I'm the coach."

Andre Iguodala scored 19 points and Evan Turner had 16 with 10 rebounds for Philadelphia, which advanced to the second round for the first time since 2003 by beating East No. 1 seed Chicago. But Turner couldn't catch Rondo in the final seconds when Philadelphia had a foul to give.

"Rondo just leaps out. That's the last thing on your mind: him going into our side of the court," Iguodala said. "You could have a turnover down there. It's a gamble, but it's a good play. We could have done a better job scoping it out."

The Sixers led, 77-67, with 11 minutes to play before Boston scored 23 of the next 30 points, with Rondo making a jumper to cut it to 80-79, then another two minutes later to give Boston an 83-82 lead with 3:47 to play.


Today's games

*The Memphis Grizzlies are confident, yet realistic. They've got their series with the Los Angeles Clippers back to even with a winner-take-all Game Seven this afternoon (1 p.m., Ch. 7).

At least this decisive game will be played in Memphis. The Grizzlies will have a sellout crowd on hand as they try to finish a rare rally from a 3-1 series deficit against the Clippers, who blew their second chance to advance with a 90-88 loss Friday night.

Only eight NBA teams have rallied from a 3-1 deficit, though the Denver Nuggets had a chance to make that nine Saturday night with their own seventh game against the Los Angeles Lakers. That game didn't end in time for this edition.

*A few minutes before the Miami-Indiana series begins this afternoon, NBA Commissioner David Stern will hit the court to present Heat forward LeBron James with the league's MVP award for a third time (3:30, Ch. 7).

The reigning Eastern Conference champions open a second-round series at home against the Pacers, who won the last meeting between the clubs in the regular season after losing the first three matchups.

And while perceptions might be that the Heat are overwhelming favorites, it certainly bears noting that Miami's 46 wins were fourth-best in the NBA during the regular season -- while Indiana's 42 wins were fifth-best, suggesting there might not be as big a gap between the clubs as some might think.

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