On Tuesday night, the Boston Celtics fell to the Philadelphia 76ers 103-101 at Wells Fargo Center. Philadelphia was led by a herculean effort from Joel Embiid, who dropped a monstrous 52-point performance to avoid the season series sweep by Boston. Without Jaylen Brown and Robert Williams, the Celtics hung in until the very end, and despite the loss, the outcome didn’t feel all that damning or meaningful.
“Nah, I wasn’t cold,” said Jayson Tatum when asked about the final quarter. “I knew probably when I was going back in. I think honestly, I probably only got two shots, but it was all about just making the right play. The way they were playing me, the flow of the game, sometimes things like that kind of happen. But finding guys, finding their mismatches and drawing a second and third guy, just kicking it out to shooters, things like that.”
With the last possession, the Celtics had an opportunity to tie the game with just two seconds to shoot in the halfcourt. The inbound found Jayson Tatum in the weakside corner, who was quickly doubled and forced to take a contested turnaround jumper that missed. It wasn’t a stellar performance for Boston’s star, and a quiet fourth quarter where he shot 0-of-2 with two assists.
"We gave ourselves a chance."— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) April 5, 2023
Jayson Tatum talks effort from Marcus Smart and Derrick in final minute of Celtics vs. Sixers pic.twitter.com/stqzjsad6S
“I mean, that just happened so fast, it was two seconds,” said Tatum. “My momentum was taking me...the guy ran Smart over. I paused for a second, didn’t know if they just called a foul or not and my momentum taking me away from the basket, I just had to get a quick shot up.”
At this point in his career, Tatum is all too familiar with multiple bodies getting thrown at him, especially after the 2022 NBA Finals where the Warriors did it consistently. When Jaylen Brown isn’t on the floor with him at the same time, it happens all the more often, but to Tatum’s credit, he’s improved significantly in his reads and reaction time in those situations.
“We gave ourselves a chance,” said Tatum, “Kept fighting. Smart got the and-one, made a Smart play and got the rebound, threw it to D. White, got fouled...or didn’t get fouled, I guess. We just kept making plays towards the end, so I was happy about that.”
In the end, PJ Tucker came up big for Philly in the fourth, shooting 3-of-4 from deep late in the game to put the game just out of reach for Boston. “Probably just that kind of night,” said Tatum on Tucker’s late game heroics. “He had three big threes in the last five minutes of the game that really kind of put them over the top. Essentially, looking back, and give him credit, he knocked the shots down.”
On what lessons the Celtics could take from the game, Tatum said, “I don’t know” with a smile. “Move on, you know? We played them, what, four times now, and might have to play them again in the playoffs. So essentially, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”
At this point in the season, there’s not much to take away from these end-of-regular-season games, especially a night like this in a two-point loss. Boston didn’t have a blowout loss where Philadelphia surgically dissected them on offense; it took an MVP-worthy performance from their star to beat a shorthanded Celtics squad, and it still almost wasn’t enough. The only takeaway to be had is it probably is Joel Embiid’s turn to lift the MVP trophy this season.
I always dreamt about this moment #Tatum1 pic.twitter.com/VMpo1fdr14— Jayson Tatum (@jaytatum0) April 4, 2023
For Jayson Tatum, this week isn’t just the closing of the regular season, but the arrival of his long-awaited signature shoe. “Super excited,” said Tatum. “It’s been a long time coming. Friday’s officially the date to the general public for everybody to go get them. So, something I’ve always dreamed about, less than a couple days away. So, you know, thankful, grateful, excited, and just enjoying the moment and looking forward to seeing them on kids and grown-ups feet all across the country and around the world. So, happy and looking forward to it.” Tatum also said after they release, there’ll be another colorway coming out rapid fire every few weeks or so.
The Celtics have a quick turnaround as they return to Boston for tonight’s matchup against the Toronto Raptors, 7:30 pm EST tipoff.