NBA playoffs: Jayson Tatum comes alive as Celtics force Game 7 vs. Sixers

The Boston Celtics are finishing this series at home.

Led by Marcus Smart and a fourth-quarter awakening of Jayson Tatum, the Celtics kept their season going Thursday with a 95-86 win over the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. The series will be decided by Game 7 in Boston on Sunday.

Smart led the team in scoring with 22 points plus 7 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals, but the game hinged on Tatum, who posted 16 fourth-quarter points after having just 3 in the previous 36 minutes.

Tatum alone outscored the Sixers 16-13 in the entire quarter, and also finished with 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks.

"Humbly, I'm one of the best basketball players in the world," Tatum said after the game. "Go through struggles, go through slumps, it's a long game. Thankfully, I got some great teammates that held it down."

The Celtics held a double-digit lead for much of the first half, but the Sixers came back in front of a raucous crowd soon after halftime. The game tightened up later in the third quarter, and no team pulled ahead by more than 2 points until Tatum led the Celtics' surge late in the fourth.

Boston Celtics' Jayson Tatum (0) shoots against the Philadelphia 76ers during the first half of Game 6 of an NBA basketball playoffs Eastern Conference semifinal, Thursday, May 11, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Jayson Tatum and the Celtics are still alive. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey tied for the game lead in points with 26 each, on a combined 18-of-39 shooting, but the Sixers as a whole had a miserable night on offense, with 36.1% shooting from the field.