The American small forward smashes the Philadelphia 76ers, headed by MVP Joel Embiid, to set a new record for most points in a seventh game. The Cameroonian becomes the first MVP who does not play in a Conference Finals.
It was one of the most promising duels in the Eastern Conference and it gave us a thrilling seven-game series…except for the final one, which the Celtics won in a dreamy third quarter. The Boston squad went on a 33-10 run in the third period to put an end to a series that the 76ers could not recover from.
The 76ers started strong, with a six-point lead at the end of the first quarter, but it proved to be a mirage. By halftime, the Celtics had a three-point lead. They were up by 26 points at the start of the fourth quarter.
The best Tatum is back
Jayson Tatum was one of the main reasons. The forward hadn’t experienced a good shooting day in the previous three games, particularly in the first two quarters. But, in a Game 7, you can’t start with a shaky hand, and Tatum is well aware of this. The American scored 25 points in the first half and 51 at the end of the game, breaking the record for most points scored in the seventh game of a playoff series.
Tatum’s day, however, did not end there. In addition to his remarkable scoring, he contributed 13 rebounds and five assists, accounting for 62 of the Celtics’ 112 points.
Embiid and Harden, ghosts in the arena
While Tatum performed admirably, the same cannot be said for the Philadelphia 76ers’ two MVPs. Neither Joel Embiid nor James Harden were up to the challenge, with 15 and nine points, respectively. Doc Rivers, coach of the team from the City of Brotherly Love, could only shower Tatum with praise: “I’ve only seen one performance like this in the playoffs. And it was in this building, unfortunately,” Rivers said. “And it was LeBron. That was the only time I’d seen a live performance like that, and I’m glad I haven’t seen many…. Tatum was magnificent.”
The question for Philadelphia is what happens from here. James Harden seems headed for free agency, and Doc Rivers is more questioned than ever. The coach now has 10 losses in seventh games, the most in league history. Embiid, for his part, becomes the first league MVP not to play in the Conference Finals.
Meanwhile, the Boston Celtics will face the surprising Miami Heat in a new Conference Final. The series that will determine who will compete for the ring begins in the early hours of Thursday.