Rajon Rondo was dared to shoot.
Three minutes remained in Game 7 and with Philadelphia continually threatening to end their season, the Celtics turned to their reluctant scorer.
Without Paul Pierce, forced to sit out the final four minutes of the game after picking up his sixth foul, Boston turned to its point guard for offensive leadership.
Rondo responded by scoring 11 of 12 points during a two minute 30 second stretch, carrying the Celtics to an 85-75 win and into the Eastern Conference finals.
Boston will face the Heat for the second straight season in the playoffs, this time with a trip to the NBA Finals on the line.
The Celtics survived because Rondo once again delivered when his team needed it the most, finishing with 18 points, 10 assists, 10 rebounds and three steals.
Rondo ended the series the same way he started it, with a triple-double.
A jumper from Pierce extended the Celtics lead to 71-65 with just under four minutes remaining. On Boston’s next possession, Pierce picked up his sixth foul as he charged into Thaddeus Young.
Without their usual crunch-time scorer, Rondo shifted from facilitator to shooter.
A 3-pointer from Andre Iguodala cut the Philadelphia deficit to three before Rondo began his scoring barrage.
Rondo raced to the rim for a layup, grabbed a rebound off a 76ers miss and then hit the shot that essentially clinched the series.
Philadelphia consistently drifted its defender off Rondo when he had the ball out on the perimeter, tempting Rondo to make his first shot from beyond the arc in four games.
He walked up the court, trying to extract every possible second off the clock, kicked it to Brandon Bass but immediately received a pass back with four seconds remaining on the short clock.
Rondo set his feet and launched a jumper from 23-feet away, swishing the shot even with Elton Brand in his face. The shot was originally ruled a 3-pointer, but an official review determined his toe was on the line.
The next time down the court, Rondo launched a shot from well beyond the 3-point line, only with the same result, this time from 27-feet out to extend the Celtics lead to 78-68.
In 11 playoff games, Rondo only made four 3-pointers.
Boston went 3-for-17 from beyond the arc, but each made shot came in the fourth quarter, as Ray Allen finally found his touch, converting twice from downtown as he finished with 11 points.
The Celtics missed their first 14 attempts from 3-point range, but converted on their final three shots.
A notoriously poor free throw shooter, Rondo closed his performance by connecting on four consecutive free throws and made all five during the game. Rondo shot 59.7 percent at the line during the year.
Rondo matched Iguodala and Kevin Garnett with 18 points, the highest in the game, but only one player had “MVP” chanted at him during the game.
The triple-double was quite a turnaround for Rondo.
In Game 6, he posted his worst game of the playoffs, logging just nine points, nine rebounds, six assists (his lowest total since March 9) and shot 4-of-14 from the field.
Following his poor shooting performance, Rondo assisted on Boston’s first four shots from the field.
The 76ers missed nine of their first 10 shots, but was able to keep pace by grabbing five offensive rebounds in the opening quarter and finished the period tied at 20.
Philadelphia won the rebound battle 45-44, posting 13 rebounds while allowing just four for the Celtics.
Even though the 76ers shot just 35 percent from the field, Iguodala kept the team in the game with three shots from 3-point range and a few transition dunks.
In the fourth, his 3-pointer from the corner brought Philadelphia within one possession, but it wouldn’t get any closer.
All season long, Rondo performed well on the national stage. With the game shown on ABC, he logged his third triple-double of the post season and ninth of the year.
Last season, an elbow injury in Game 3 knocked Rondo out for the series as Miami won in five.
The Celtics have a chance to avenge the loss and with all games slated to be on ESPN and ABC, Rondo will have another chance to prove himself to a national audience.