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Tatum propels Celtics to game 7 win over Sixers

Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics drives to the basket during Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals of the 2023 NBA Playoffs against the Philadelphia 76ers on May 14, 2023 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant / NBAE / Getty Images / Getty Images via AFP

Jayson Tatum poured in a historic 51 points on Sunday to lead the Boston Celtics to a 112-88 game-seven victory over the Philadelphia 76ers and into the NBA Eastern Conference finals.

Tatum added 13 rebounds five assists and a couple of steals and the Celtics’ suffocating defense neutralized newly minted NBA Most Valuable Player Joel Embiid as Boston booked a return date with the Miami Heat — the team they beat in seven games in the last year’s conference finals.

Jaylen Brown added 25 points for Boston, who broke open a close game in the third quarter as they out-scored the 76ers 33-10.

Philadelphia went six minutes of the period without a basket and trailed by 26 heading into the fourth, when Boston pushed the lead to 30 with less than four minutes to play.

His 51 points eclipsed the game-seven record of 50 set by Golden State’s Stephen Curry against the Sacramento Kings in the first round this month.

It was another crushing playoff exit for the 76ers and Embiid, who was held to 15 points on five-of-18 shooting.

Philadelphia’s Doc Rivers fell to 6-10 in game sevens as a coach. That’s the most game seven defeats of any NBA coach in history and Rivers remained without a game-seven win on the road in his coaching career.

Tobias Harris led the 76ers with 19 points but Boston limited the Sixers to 37.3% shooting from the floor and harried them into 14 turnovers.

Star guard James Harden scored just nine, making three of his 11 shots from the field.

Tatum, who endured a horrific shooting night until drilling four crucial three-pointers in the fourth quarter of the Celtics’ series-extending game-six win on Thursday, began fashioning his game-seven masterpiece in the opening minutes.

He departed to a hero’s ovation with less than four minutes left in the game.

“It felt great,” he told broadcaster ESPN. “This was a back and forth series. Obviously I didn’t play well the first half of the last game and I was just happy to get an opportunity to bounce back.

“To come back home, game seven on Mother’s Day … I had to put on a special performance for her.”

The Celtics will host the Heat in game one of the Eastern Conference finals on Wednesday with an NBA Finals berth on the line.

Last year the Heat were the top seeds in the East. This year they are the first eighth-seeded team to reach the conference finals since the 1999 Knicks.

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