Mother’s Day Massacre: Tatum drops 51 as Celtics hand Sixers 112-88 Game 7 waxing

The Boston Celtics will advance to the 2023 Eastern Conference Finals after defeating the Philadelphia 76ers 112-88 in Game 7 at home Sunday afternoon. Jayson Tatum dropped 51 points, the most ever scored in a Game 7 in NBA history, handily putting the Sixers to bed in the process. The Celtics now face Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat in the next round, the third time in four season’s Boston and Miami have clashed with a trip to the Finals on the line.

Just a few days removed from a heroic fourth quarter performance to save Boston’s season, Tatum once again put on a show, this time securing a series win behind an unbelievable scoring performance points. With the lights at their brightest, the First Team All-NBA forward rose to the occasion, helping the Celtics overcome this season’s MVP Joel Embiid and his rival 76ers.

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Boston outscored Philadelphia 33-10 in the third quarter, grabbing the game by the horns and never letting go. The Celtics now head to the conference finals with home court advantage and a whole lot of momentum. With the win, Boston is secured its fifth Eastern Conference Finals appearance in seven seasons.

Here’s what you may have missed from Boston’s Game 7 thumping of Philadelphia this Mother’s Day.

Boston's offense

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The Celtics offense was heavily predicated on attacking the rim. In the first half alone, Boston attempted just 33 3-pointers, opting instead to challenge Philadelphia right at the cup. After a season of prioritizing shooting, pace, and analytics, the Celtics settled into a much more aggressive groove.


Jayson Tatum in particular was in attack mode right from the jump. He had no trouble getting into the paint, blowing by Sixers defenders with almost alarming consistency. When his 3-point shot came alive in the second half, it was blouses for the Sixers. Sunday represented Tatum’s highest-scoring postseason performance in his career, with 13 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steal to boot.

Tatum’s unbelievable offensive gravity helped his teammates considerably. Attacking the rim remained the priority for the entire team in green, though it generated some seriously open looks from 3. Boston shot an efficient 15-for-33 from deep, with 18 assists and just 7 turnovers. It was a scoring clinic with the season on the line.

Boston's defense

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Head coach Joe Mazzulla once again prioritized size for much of the game, pairing Robert Williams III and Al Horford in the starting lineup. As promised, the Sixers worked hard to stretch Boston’s imposing frontcourt with lots of pick and roll, drives, and extra passes. PJ Tuckers 3-for-6 performance from 3 is a credit to this strategy’s success.

The trade-off more than worked for Mazzulla and the Celtics, however. Philly only shot 21.6% from deep, while Boston dominated the restricted area. The Sixers managed a paltry 44 points in the paint, not nearly enough to keep pace with Tatum and the Celtics.

In the end, defense was the winning formula for Boston. Mazzulla may have ushered in a new era of high-octane, but with the chips down, this Celtics team cuts its teeth on defense. Such was the story here in Game 7.

Looking ahead

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After Sunday’s win, Boston advances to face the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, with a trip to the NBA Finals on the line. Last year, the Celtics beat the Heat in seven games in a thrilling back and forth series.

With Jimmy Butler at the helm, Miami is in the midst of an improbable postseason run. Despite dropping their first Play-in game, the Heat have since vanquished the Milwaukee Bucks and New York Knicks in rather convincing fashion.

Miami plays with poise and a slower pace, relying on veteran savvy and playmaking. Though the Celtics found their defensive footing a bit in this series, they have the shooting and athleticism to really challenge the Heat. It will be a fascinating clash of styles regardless.

Boston has home court advantage in the series, with Game 1 of the 2023 Eastern Conference Finals tipping off Wednesday night at TD Garden.


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Story originally appeared on Celtics Wire