Jayson Tatum scored 51 points, the most in a Game 7 in NBA history, and the Boston Celtics beat the Philadelphia 76ers 112-88 on Sunday to advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the second year in a row.
A game after missing 14 of his first 15 shots only to wake up in the fourth quarter, Tatum got off to the fast start the Celtics needed. He scored 25 in a back-and-forth first half and 17 more in Boston’s 33-10 third-quarter run that turned a three-point lead into a blowout.
The Celtics, who lost to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals last year, will face the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, which begin Wednesday in Boston.
Tatum broke Stephen Curry’s Game 7 record of 50 points two weeks ago against Sacramento and added 13 rebounds.
Jaylen Brown scored 25 points for the Celtics, who rallied from a 3-2 deficit in the best-of-seven series to keep alive their hopes of an unprecedented 18th NBA championship. Tatum was subbed out of the game with three minutes remaining to a standing ovation from the crowd, which soon erupted into a “Beat the Heat!” to sing.
Newly crowned NBA MVP Joel Embiid scored 15 points on 5-for-18 shooting, and Tobias Harris scored 19 for Philadelphia. The Sixers lost in the conference semifinals for the third year in a row, and the fifth time in six seasons; they haven’t gone any further since reaching the NBA Finals in 2001.
Tatum started 0-for-6 in a Game 5 loss and missed 14 of his first 15 shots from the floor in Game 6 before hitting four 3-pointers in the final 4:14 to force a decisive Game 7.
He picked up where he left off, scoring Boston’s first basket and 11 points in the first quarter, 14 more in the second and outscoring the Sixers on his own, 17-10, in the third. The 33-10 lead in the third was the most lopsided quarter in a Game 7 since at least 1997.
Brown started the game wearing the black mask he’s been wearing since breaking a bone in his face before the All-Star break. He took it off and soon absorbed an elbow to the face from James Harden, which was called a flagrant foul.
Brown continued without the mask but finished the half with cotton in the left nostril. He also played with a lead, making both foul shots and following it up with a steal and layup as Boston went on a 9-0 run to erase a 35-26 deficit.
Brown also dove into the Sixers bench to save a layup, then had words with the bench after Georges Niang grabbed his leg and prevented him from returning to the court. Both players received technical fouls.
Robert Williams followed the drive with a layup that tied the score at 35.
WHAT’S NEW DOC?
Sixers coach Doc Rivers is 6-10 in Game 7s. The 10 losses are five more than any other coach in the NBA and three more than the NHL’s Mike Babcock and Bruce Boudreau. His teams are 6-16 in their last 22 chances to shut out an opponent in a playoff series.
“It’s an honor to keep getting teams to these places,” he said before the game. “There are people, your friends who look at you like, ‘Why do you like this?’ And that’s what it’s all about. You put yourself in because you want to win. And you know that if you do you have to put yourself in those situations over and over and over again. And it’s worth it. It’s worth it. And that’s what I tell mine.”
Tatum is the sixth player since 1997 to score 25 or more points in the first half of a seventh game. The last was Luka Doncic, who had 29 against the Clippers in the first round of the 2021 playoffs. Paul Pierce scored 26 for the Celtics against Cleveland in the second round in 2008. … The 10 points he scored Philadelphia were tied for fewest in any quarter of Game 7 in the shot clock era.
Report from The Associated Press.
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