The first half of Sunday’s Game 7 matchup between the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers was every bit the heavyweight matchup everyone expected in a win-or-go home battle between two of the NBA’s historic rivals.
But a third quarter knockout punch had the Celtics advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals in a 112-88 victory.
TD Garden came out rocking and the Celtics started the game with urgency, but the 76ers grabbed an early lead in the first and going into the second.
It looked like one of those games Joel Embiid, James Harden and the Sixers would control until the Celtics really woke up mid-way through the second and going into halftime as Jayson Tatum took over and looked unstoppable.
With 25 points in that first half, Tatum came to play and so did Jaylen Brown. The latter of the All-Star duo provided the hustle, diving for loose balls, taking elbows to the face and even had Philly’s bench literally attempting to hold him back.
Boston Celtics fans brought the energy, the players brought the fight
In fact, Brown’s elbow to the face which resulted in a fragrant foul by Harden could be looked at as the turning put of the game. The Celtics turned an 8-point deficit at that point in the second quarter into an eventual lead in the game. The C’s took a 3-point lead into halftime and then the explosives happened.
Led by Tatum’s 51-points on 17-of-28 shooting from the field, the Boston Celtics took that energy from the TD Garden faithful and translated it on the court on both sides of the court. Sparked by Tatum who fueled a 28-3 knockout blow on hot 3-point shooting, the energy was simply electric.
"“Everybody that was in the building, anybody that was cheering for the Celtics, I feel like we could feel that energy tonight and it definitely carried over,” Brown said following the game, via NBC Sports Boston. “So we’re definitely going to need some more of that going forward. That was fun. That was a great basketball environment.”"
Now that the team took care of business in advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals, there was probably no way the team was losing three consecutive playoff games at TD Garden. But, they had to come out the right way and continue to play with urgency throughout the game. They did that and it helped that once of the best players in the world was on his game and engaged.
But the second half of that basketball game was how this Boston Celtics team can blitz any opponent when they are active defensively, moving the ball and playing with pace. They not only took Embiid and Harden out of the game, but they also took the life out of the 76ers.
On paper, it was Tatum, but the energy in that building, the way the entire team responded should put the NBA on notice.
Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat are the next challenge in the way of Banner 18, but if the Boston Celtics play the way they played in the second half of that ballgame, it should be a challenge they look forward to.