In an electrifying Game 7 showdown, Jayson Tatum led the Boston Celtics to victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, 112-88, Monday (Philippine time) with an unprecedented performance, scoring 51 points to break the Game 7 record of 50 points set by Stephen Curry just two weeks prior.
The win sends the Celtics to the Eastern Conference finals for the second year in a row, where they will face the Miami Heat.
Tatum, who had struggled in the previous two games, started strong and finished even stronger, scoring 25 points in the back-and-forth first half and 17 more in the third quarter, which saw Boston take a commanding 33-10 lead over Philadelphia.
Tatum’s 51-point performance also included 13 rebounds, while his teammate Jaylen Brown added 25 points to help Boston overcome a 3-2 deficit in the series.
Tatum’s record-breaking performance was met with thunderous applause from the home crowd as he was subbed out of the game with three minutes remaining. The atmosphere in the arena was charged with excitement as the Boston fans cheered on their team with chants of “Beat the Heat!” The fans were eagerly looking forward to the rematch against Miami, who had defeated Boston in six games during the Eastern Conference finals of 2020.
After the game, Tatum spoke about the pressure he felt going into the matchup, telling the NBA: “It definitely was on my mind that I had played as bad as it could get, for 43 minutes. He mentioned a team saying, “It’s only up from here,” indicating the team’s determination to improve. The Celtics’ win not only secured their 18th NBA championship appearance but also kept their hopes alive for an 18th title, which the team and their fans eagerly anticipate.
On the other side, Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, who was recently crowned NBA MVP, struggled to find his rhythm and scored only 15 points on 5-for-18 shooting. Tobias Harris scored 19 points, but it was not enough to overcome Tatum’s dominant performance.
The Sixers suffered their third straight loss in the conference semifinals and their fifth in six seasons, despite their controversial strategy of tanking for draft picks, which led to the acquisition of players such as Embiid.
Head coach Doc Rivers, who had won the championship with the Boston Celtics in 2008, expressed his disappointment with the team’s performance but remained optimistic about their future. He noted that while the loss was a setback, he believed that the team had made progress over the course of the season.
However, he acknowledged that there was still work to be done, saying “We took a step forward this season, and tonight we took a step back. But that’s part of the process, and we’ll continue to move forward.”
Looking ahead, the Celtics will face the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals for the second year in a row. The Heat defeated the Celtics in six games in last year’s matchup, while the Celtics took a seven-game series against the Heat the previous season. Game 1 of the series is set to take place on Wednesday in Boston.
For Tatum and the Celtics, the victory over the Sixers marks a significant milestone and a chance to continue their pursuit of the NBA championship. As Tatum remarked after the game, “As a competitor, I love the opportunity.” With Tatum’s historic performance leading the way, the Celtics will look to build on their momentum and take down the Heat in what is sure to be a thrilling Eastern Conference finals showdown.