The Celtics are heading back to the Eastern Conference Finals after beating the Philadelphia 76ers 112-88 in a do-or-die Game 7 at TD Garden Mother's Day afternoon.
Jayson Tatum picked up where he left off in the fourth quarter of Game 6 at Wells Fargo Center, to finish with 51 points -- setting a new NBA record for the most scored in a Game 7 -- on 17-of-28 from the field and 6-of-10 from deep, to go along with 13 rebounds, five assists and two steals.
"I was relieved just to get another chance. Our season could have been over after Game 6," said Tatum in his postgame presser after he broke the Game 7 record of 50 points Stephen Curry set two weeks ago. "It definitely was on my mind that I had played as bad as it could get, for 43 minutes."We had a saying: 'It's only up from here.'"
Jaylen Brown -- called out C's fans to be ready for Game 7 -- netted 25 points, six rebounds and Malcolm Brogdon added 12 points off the bench for the Celtics, who rallied from a 3-2 series deficit, will now face the Heat for a third time in four seasons for the East crown and a chance to make it back to the NBA Finals.
Miami beat the C's in six games back in 2020 (the Disney bubble) and Boston got their revenge in seven last season.
"It's the best time of the year," Tatum said. "As a competitor, I love the opportunity."
The reigning league MVP Joel Embiid finished with a mere 15 points on 5-of-18 shooting and five rebounds, while James Harden chipped in nine points, seven assists for the 76ers -- who have yet to reach the East Finals since 2001.
"I thought we had the right group. I really did," Sixers coach Doc Rivers said to reporters following the loss. "We played great all year and this loss absolutely diminishes what we did this year in some way. ... I think this team is headed right. I thought we took another step this season. And then tonight I think we took a step backward. But that's OK. That happens, too."
Tobias Harris was the lead man for Philly, scoring 19 points and Tyrese Maxey notched 17 points.
Boston trailed by as many as nine to start the game and 29-23 at the end of the first, before they used a 9-0 spurt to erase a 35-26 deficit and never looked back.
Brown began the afternoon with his black mask on, but once he removed it in the second quarter, the wing took an elbow to the face courtesy of Harden -- who was assessed a flagrant foul.
During Boston's run, Brown also dove into the Sixers bench while saving a ball and had some words after Georges Niang grabbed his leg and kept him from getting back on the court. Both players were given each a technical foul, while Robert Williams capped off the scrappiness with a layup to tie it up 35-all.
"Nothing like a shot to the face to wake you right up," Brown said in his postgame comments.
The Celtics led 55-52 at the break, with Tatum having scored 25, before Boston went on a 28-3 run to blow the game wide open and take a 88-62 advantage into the final frame.
The All-NBA first team forward dropped another 17 points in the third, as the C's outscored Philly 33-10 to conclude the period.
"JT just got it going and get out of that man's way," Brown said of Tatum. "He got it rolling, and there's nothing they could do to stop him."
Tatum started 0-of-6 in Boston's Game 5 loss and missed 14 of his first 15 shots overall from the floor in Game 6 before making four 3-pointers in the final 4:14 to force a decisive seventh game at home.
"You always come into a series with the expectation of how it's supposed to go," said Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla, who is the youngest coach in the league at 34-years-old. "That's not how the playoffs are."
The Celtics will host the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals at home on Wednesday night, with TNT having the tip-off at 8:30 ET.
Boston hit 47.1% from the field, including 15-of-33 (45.5%) from the 3-point range, while the 76ers were 37.3% from the floor and 8-of-37 from long range. The Celtics out-rebounded Philly 43-37, but both finished with 44 points each in the paint. The C's dished out 18 assists (eight turnovers) on 41 baskets and the Sixers had 15 dimes (14 turnovers) on 31 made shots.
Photo used courtesy of Getty Images
Photo used courtesy of Getty Images