The Celtics beat the Philadelphia 76ers 95-86 Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center to force a do-or-die Game 7.
Jayson Tatum, fresh off being named All-NBA First Team, struggled mightily through the first three and a half quarters missing 14 of his first 15 shot attempts -- including 0-of-6 from behind the arc -- before hitting four 3-pointers in the final frame to score 16 of his total 19 points. Plus, he also registered nine rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks in 43 minutes of action.
"I kept looking at the time," Tatum said in his postgame presser. "I've got time, I've got time to make a difference. I believed that the whole time."
NBA Hustle Award winner Marcus Smart led the way for Boston with 22 points on 8-of-15 from the field, seven rebounds and seven assists, while Jaylen Brown -- named All-NBA Second Team -- added 17 points (6-of-13 from the floor) and six rebounds. Malcolm Brogdon chipped in 16 points and six rebounds off the bench.
Boston used a 14-3 run in the final 4:14 of the fourth quarter with their season on the line to hold off the Sixers in their own building.
Joel Embiid, who has yet to play in a conference finals during his career, had 26 points on 9-of-19 shooting and 8-of-8 from the free throw line, to go along with 10 rebounds and three blocks.
"We stopped moving the ball," Embiid said to reporters postgame. "I don't think I touched the ball the last 4 minutes of the game. Missed a lot of good looks. I didn't touch the ball, though."
Tyrese Maxey finished with 26 points on 9-of-20 from the floor, James Harden had 13 points (4-of-16), seven rebound and nine assists for Philly -- who are seeking to make it back to the East Finals for the first time since 2001.
The Celtics were ahead by 16 (their largest margin) with 7:59 left in the first half despite Tatum missing all 10 of his shots, including going 0-of-5 from 3-point range, before the Sixers cut their deficit to seven (50-43) by the break.
The 76ers used a 16-4 run to take their first lead on two go-ahead free throws by Harden in the third quarter and turned into a 73-71 advantage heading into the fourth period.
With the game tied 81-81 on an Embiid pullup 15-footer with 6:13 left to play, Philadelphia wouldn't hit a single field goal the rest of the way, as Tatum connected on three straight 3s during a 11-3 Boston spurt. The All-Star forward nailed his final 3-point dagger with 37.1 seconds remaining to stun Sixers fans and put the C's up 95-84.
Joe Mazzulla has been taking criticism with some of his decision making throughout this best-of-7 series, but stuck with Tatum even when the Celtics squandered a double-digit lead in the second quarter. In the end, it paid off for 34-year-old to which Tatum is grateful for the vote of confidence from his head coach.
"I told him a lot of times, 'I got your back. We're in this together,'" Tatum said. "I love the relationship that me and Joe have."
The Celtics will look to pull off another second-round comeback victory in consecutive seasons, when they host the 76ers in a deciding Game 7 Sunday at TD Garden -- with tip-off time to still be determined -- depending on if the Golden State Warriors (trail 3-2) beat the Los Angeles in their Game 6 matchup tonight.
Boston was 42.3% from the field, including 15-of-35 (42.9%) from deep, while the 76ers were 36.1% from the floor and 8-of-34 (23.5%) from long distance. The Celtics out-rebounded the Philadelphia 50-38 and outscored them in the paint 36-32. The C's dished out 22 assists (18 turnovers) on 33 baskets and the Sixers had 18 dimes (12 turnovers) on 30 made shots.
Photo used courtesy of USA Today
Photo used courtesy of USA Today