The Boston Celtics are battling the Philadelphia 76ers this afternoon in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Philadelphia controlled much of Game 6, but thanks to Marcus Smart and a resurgent 4th quarter from Jayson Tatum, the Celtics buried the Sixers’ hopes of ending this series early, sending it back to Boston. According to FanDuel Sportsbook, the Celtics are 6.5-point favorites.
Point Spread: Boston Celtics -6.5
O/U: 201 points
ML: Celtics -275, 76ers +215
Jayson Tatum 25+ points, Joel Embiid 30+ points, James Harden 2+ made threes, Al Horford 6+ rebounds
Everyone is healthy for Game 7 aside from Danilo Gallinari (ACL), who’s missed the entire season recovering from surgery.
Celtics Projected Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Robert Williams III
76ers Projected Starters
PG: James Harden
SG: Tyrese Maxey
SF: Tobias Harris
PF: PJ Tucker
C: Joel Embiid
Boston Celtics Overview
The story of Game 6 was Jayson Tatum’s wild night. With just 3 points and one field goal make through three quarters, Tatum put the Celtics offense on his back in the 4th, outscoring the Sixers 16-13. It was a great way to save what would’ve been easily the worst game of his career, but with that being said, he has to be better early in the game. His struggles are inexplicable at this point, having not recorded a FG in the first quarters of Games 4, 5, and 6. The Celtics just proved they can still win even when Tatum is at his absolute worst, but if they can get him some easy perimeter shots and opportunities to drive early in the game (maybe by moving him off-ball), they can make this game a lot easier for themselves.
Another way to maintain a strong start tonight is to keep the double big lineup rolling for even longer. Joe Mazzulla made the switch to start Robert Williams III at center and bring Derrick White off the bench, and that really paid off. The Celtics opened the game with a 15-3 lead and forced a 1-11 start from Philadelphia thanks to their suffocating defense, swarming everyone not named PJ Tucker. When Rob was on the floor, he disrupted everything Philadelphia was trying to do on offense. For most of the night, he was — far and away — the Celtics’ leader in +/-, and finished second overall at +13. Boston sacrifices offense with him and Horford on the floor at the same time, but their defense was impeccable. It’ll be interesting to see if Mazzulla gives that lineup even more run tonight.
Philadelphia 76ers Overview
The Sixers will be fighting an uphill battle tonight against not just the Celtics, but their own feelings of dejection. After playing three fantastic quarters of basketball and going bucket for bucket to start the 4th, their offense completely stalled out, and they went nearly 6 minutes without a field goal to end the game. Once Jayson Tatum got a few threes to go down, they looked completely dead, expressing some really poor body language including a moment where Joel Embiid and James Harden walked up the floor on defense with just under two minutes remaining. The inability to close that one out at home was brutal, but the Sixers have to put that behind them and get out to a fast start.
The 4th quarter was abysmal, but there were other reasons they couldn’t win Game 6. A big one was that throughout the game, they couldn’t get a scoring lift from a third player. Tyrese Maxey was on fire, Embiid played a strong second half, but Harden struggled, shooting just 4-16. If one of Embiid or Harden doesn’t go nuclear, Philadelphia has proven they really need a balanced offensive attack or else they can’t keep up with the Celtics. If Harden takes on the role of playmaker once again, Tobias Harris or De’Anthony Melton (who will likely receive more minutes in place of PJ Tucker) may make or break the team’s chances of victory today.
This series has been an absolute war, and there’s no selling short how hard Philadelphia has fought. However, I think they had their chance to close the Celtics out and blew it. They’ve proven they’re fine playing on the road, but this time, the momentum is fully with Boston, and I can’t imagine Jayson Tatum plays any worse than he has the last three games. I don’t think it comes easy, but I think Boston sends Philadelphia home and moves on to the Eastern Conference Finals.