Safe to say, Jayson Tatum’s struggles are over.
The Celtics demolished the 76ers 112-88, winning the series 4-3. With the season on the line, Boston’s MVP turned in an all-time Playoff performance, breaking Steph Curry’s record of most points in a Game 7. Meanwhile, Philadelphia’s stars wilted on the Garden floor, falling short in the second round once again after missing a golden opportunity to close the series out in six. Boston moves on to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.
TD Garden acknowledges Tatum’s NBA RECORD 51 points in a Game 7 pic.twitter.com/c6mbs3a4eb
— Celtics on CLNS (@CelticsCLNS) May 14, 2023
After his Game 6 heroics, Tatum told Cassidy Hubbarth postgame that he’s one of the best in the world. Today, he backed that up today with 51 points on nearly 61% shooting to go with 13 rebounds and 5 assists. From the start, Tatum was aggressive, cutting to the rim with authority and recording 11 first quarter points (after scoring none in Games 4-6). Before the Celtics pulled away in the 3rd off a 29-3 run, he kept the team’s offense afloat with unstoppable iso offense and excellent decision making. In the long Celtics-Sixers postseason lore, this game will rank highly among the best moments.
Jayson Tatum. Perfect game. Maybe his best ever. pic.twitter.com/DnLwDEycCJ
— Bobby Manning (@RealBobManning) May 14, 2023
Following the game, Joe Mazzulla praised Tatum not for his scoring, but his ability to stay within himself and continue to impact other areas despite his struggles the past few games. “I told him when the game starts, don’t listen to people and try to get out on a good start scoring,” he said. “You’re not defined by scoring in my book. When he plays a well-rounded game, our team is different, and credit to him for buying into that.”
This win wasn’t all Jayson Tatum though. The Celtics played a forceful 48 minutes, especially on the defensive end, not letting up until they could dribble out the clock up 24 points. Their double teams on Joel Embiid were incredibly effective, and the individual defense of Al Horford was instrumental in that massive 3rd quarter run.
“I tried to make everything as difficult as I could,” said Horford when asked about guarding Joel Embiid. “I understood that in this series, I had to take this challenge and defend him for us to have a chance.”
Philadelphia started out hot, but as the game wore on and Joel Embiid and James Harden couldn’t get going, it became more and more apparent they wouldn’t be able to hang with Boston. They ended the game a combined 8-29 from the field with 9 turnovers.
Boston will be taking on the scrappy Miami Heat next — a team that can’t be underestimated with their postseason experience and defensive play. While the Celtics should enjoy this hard fought series win, Joe Mazzulla isn’t wasting any time preparing for the challenge ahead.
When asked about his plans for tonight, Joe Mazzulla kept his answer simple. “I’m gonna go home and grab a glass of red wine and start watching film on Miami,” he said.
The Celtics are back at it on Wednesday night at home in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.