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Tatum before game winner in Philadelphia: ‘it’s game time, we’re going home’

The Celtics head coach stole the ATO from his former boss.

Boston Celtics v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

“I stole it from Brad.”

That was head coach Joe Mazzulla after Jayson Tatum’s game-winning three-pointer that helped edge the Celtics over the 76ers 110-107, but you know in those heist movies where you see the ending at the start and then they show you how it all happened? Let’s rewind.

With just under six seconds left, head coach Joe Mazzulla called timeout and even that decision deserves a little more context. Two minutes prior, Boston had relinquished a late 5-point lead with three straight empty possessions and a fast break layup from Tyrese Maxey gave Philly a lead. Most head coaches would have called a TO after that kind of meltdown — not Mazzulla.

Instead — in what has become a point of contention for fans and an act of trust for the coach and his players — the Celtics opted to play it out and preserve their two remaining timeouts. Result: Al Horford’s fifth 3 in the half and a two-point lead.

Fast forward to the final seconds and those two TO’s. With the game tied with under eleven seconds to go and Philadelphia with a foul to give, Mazzulla burned one after a take foul on Tatum by Tobias Harris and drew up a familiar play that Boston has used several times this season.

Against the Knicks before the All-Star break, Tatum was used as a decoy to get Jaylen Brown the ball on the baseline. Back in November, JT got the ball in similar fashion to tie a game in Cleveland:

“It’s a read. You can do a whole bunch of stuff out of it, so it’s just a matter of reading where the defenders are,” Mazzulla said after the game. “Smart made a great play. JT did a good job making separation. On plays like that, players have to make plays and they did.”

In the huddle, the players were just as confident as their coach, particularly Tatum. “Coming out of the timeout, I told Grant (Williams) ‘it’s game. it’s gametime. We’re going home,’” Tatum said. “I knew it had been a tough night. It was perfect story right? Tie game, five seconds left. I hadn’t been shooting well. Come through for the guys when we needed it most.”

Tatum finished the night with a modest 18 points on 7-for-17 shooting, but none bigger than the final 3 to extend Boston’s win streak to three games. Unfortunately for Tatum, Williams, and the rest of the Celtics, they’re not exactly “going home” just yet with one more road game in New York on Monday night before heading back to TD Garden for a three-game homestand.

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