The Boston Celtics breezed through the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night, winning the series in five games. They will head into the Eastern Conference Finals for a second straight year. However, the game was not easy, as Celtics won a tight-one, 114-112.
Celtics rookie sensation Jayson Tatum led the team as he recorded 25 points, four assists, three rebounds and one steal. He also went to the line 11 times and made nine of his free-throws. Moreover, Tatum is the first player to record seven straight playoff games scoring more than 20 points since Paul Pierce.
Besides him, Jaylen Brown poured in 24 points and grabbed four rebounds and dished out two assists.
For the 76ers, Dario Saric and Joel Embiid notched 27 points, leading both teams in scoring but it wasn't enough for the 76ers to secure the win. Embiid grabbed 12 rebounds, two more than Saric, and both recorded the same number of assists, with four.
Celtics took command in the first quarter
The game began with both teams playing well, and at the at the 9:55 mark, the quarter was tied by six. Nevertheless, after only two minutes, Philadelphia was leading for 14-10 and showed more confidence than in the last four duels.
However, Boston, being the more experienced squad, answered right back. At the 4:04 mark, when the 76ers were up 18-16, Marcus Smart drew a foul from deep on Ben Simmons and drained all three free-throws.
The last two minutes of the quarter became increasingly intense with 76ers and Boston scoring points after another. But, at the end of the quarter, Celtics led the game, 25-24.
Boston finish strong and led at the half
Philadelphia started the second quarter putting pressure on Boston. At the 8:37 mark, they were leading 33-29. That's until the Celtics went on a short run. Boston's Terry Rozier III hit a three-pointer to shorten their deficit to a point. One minute later, Tatum scored his 12th point in the game, making it 38-37.
From 4:43 to 4:10 Smart went on a run of his own, scoring six points. His run helped the Celtics increase their lead to nine points, leading 61-52 at the half.
Despite Boston's high-level play and with the Celtics' home crowd making it tough for Philadelphia, the 76ers were having a good night. Embiid and Saric led the way with 12 and Simmons with 10 points.
However, Tatum finished the half 14 points, two rebounds and one assist. Followed by Rozier with 11 points, two rebounds and assists.
The 76ers begin to play better in the third quarter
The third quarter had begun with the 76ers playing better than the Celtics. Especially because the Celtics’ level of play decreased compared to the first and second quarters. In However, at the 7:15 mark, Boston was still was leading by nine points.
In the last three minutes of the game, the margin of difference that once was nine points, became only four. In last 30 second, J.J. Redick drained a three-pointer, and the gap between the two teams reduced to a point.
In the third, Philadelphia scored 30 points, whilst Boston 22. The Celtics held a slim 84-83.
Celtics finish strong
As it was stated before, in the last period the level of the game rose and at the 9:35 mark, Philadelphia had led for the first time, 90-88. After the 76ers' Robert Covington scored a three-pointer, the Celtics came back the following 30 seconds, with Tatum drawing a foul on Embiid and scoring his two free-throws, tying the game at 90.
Two minutes later, the 76ers jumped to a 94-90 lead and it seemed that it was looking good for the 76ers in forcing a Game 6.
However, the Celtics' offense turned up, tying the game at 94, and at 6:31, Boston's center, Al Horford, scored two points, giving them the lead.
Boston held the lead and the 76ers were struggling to shrink the gap between them. At the 2:02 mark, Saric and Simmons made a last-ditch effort to close-in on the lead, making it 107-103.
The last 10 seconds of the game went in favor of Boston. First, Rozier III drained two free-throws and in the ensuing possession, Redick drained a three-pointer with only three seconds left to make it a 112-113 game. Smart was then sent to the line by T.J. McConnell. He missed the first one and tried to intentionally miss the second but ended up making it.
With 2.4 seconds left, Simmons was the inbounder for the final possession and threw a pass intended for Covington but Smart got in at the last second and picked it off, sealing a 114-112 victory for the Celtics and advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Boston Celtics will have homecourt advantage against Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals. Game 1 is on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET.