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Jayson Tatum’s Game 7 performance vs. 76ers cements him in Celtics lore

“I can’t express enough that I just love being here.”

2023 NBA Playoffs - Philadelphia 76ers v Boston Celtics Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Jayson Tatum just obliterated the Philadelphia 76ers.

Heading into Game 7, Tatum was riding the high of an elite finish in Game 6. But prior to that, he was ice cold. He failed to score in the first half of Game 6, and Game 3 was the last time he recorded a first-quarter field goal.

In Game 7, he decided to put the Boston Celtics on his back.

“Our season could have been over in Game 6,” said Tatum. “Just being in another Game 7, being able to come back home in front of our fans, I was really excited. Just for the moment. To come out here and play today.”

Tatum went berserk, pouring in 51 points on 17-of-28 shooting from the field and 6-of-10 shooting from deep, setting the record for most points in a Game 7 in NBA history. He also added 13 rebounds, five assists, and two steals to his totals, all without committing any turnovers.

According to the NBA’s Game Score statistic, Tatum recorded a 46.0—the 13th-best single game in the history of the NBA Playoffs. It’s the fourth-best showing amongst active players.

When the Celtics needed it most, Tatum transformed into the best version of himself.

“As I’ve gotten older and gone through my career, [I’m] just trying to grow,” said Tatum. “I’ve always been able to score the ball. I’ve always kind of been looked at as a scorer. But to be the best player, to be one of the best players, what can I do each and every night, on both ends of the floor, besides scoring to impact the game? Dominating in those ways.”

The game began with an aggressive version of Tatum. He only took two threes in the first half, instead choosing to attack the paint and get to the charity stripe. By halftime, he had already attempted eight free throws.

He then moved on to the mid-range, ensuring the 76ers had to think before dropping back to protect the rim.

And then it was time for the threes.

“Get out of that man’s way,” said Jaylen Brown. “He just got it rolling, and there was nothing they could do to stop [him]. They started trying to double-team him, and that just gave open looks to other guys. When JT is playing like that, we’re going to be extremely hard to beat.”

Three after three after three, Tatum shoved his success in Philadelphia’s face, draining multiple shots in Joel Embiid’s face and getting the TD Garden crowd amped up. No matter how well-defended he was, Tatum was pulling with confidence. He nailed four threes in the third quarter alone.

Tatum even earned a Mike Breen “BANG” call in the third quarter. That’s how dominant he and the Celtics were.

When the fourth quarter rolled around, the 76ers were all but buried. So, when Tatum cracked the 50-point mark, he threw up a big “5-0” to the crowd.

“Jayson was in such a zone that it didn’t matter who was going to be out there,” said Al Horford. “It’s just so remarkable what he was able to do tonight. It’s so remarkable. A Game 7, this type of magnitude, there are so many emotions. There’s a lot of intensity. For him to play that, that’s what special players do.”

After a series full of struggles, Tatum came through. He was nothing short of dominant in Game 7, getting things done on both ends of the court and outdueling the league MVP. It was his greatest individual performance to date.

The rest of the squad showed up, too. Horford shut down Embiid in the post, Brown churned in an amazing scoring night, and everyone else on the team played their role to perfection. But Tatum was the head of the snake.

In a city with a history as rich as Boston’s and on a team as storied as the Celtics, it’s nearly impossible to stand out.

That’s exactly what Tatum did in Game 7. An all-time showing from a blossoming Boston legend.

“I love being here,” said Tatum. “I love getting to put on this uniform. I love getting to play big games and put on big performances in front of [this crowd]. And they feed off emotion and energy and reciprocate it. I can’t express enough that I just love being here and love playing in front of this crowd.”

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