The Way The Celtics Once Again Ended The Process With Another Game 7 Victory Was Exactly Why We Love And Trust

Adam Glanzman. Getty Images.

I'm not sure about anyone else, but I find myself extremely emotionally exhausted today. You know, typical post Game 7 stuff. They say there's nothing greater in sports than a Game 7 and I sort of have to disagree. Those things are the absolute worst. If possible, I would like to avoid any and all Game 7s for the rest of the playoffs. Even as someone who roots for a team that has won their last 3 Game 7s, both at home and on the road, I'm simply getting too old for this shit. My heart cannot take too many more if we're being honest, and the Celts are good enough to where they shouldn't have to be in this position the rest of the way. 

All day yesterday I kept thinking the same thing to myself. There was no way the Celtics season could end like this. The way they had lost games in this series, and the fact that the number suggested this is a series that the Celts should have wrapped up in 5 games, I just could not envision the Celts losing 3 of their 4 home games in a series to blow a chance at a title. At the same time, I fully understand that at times, the Boston Celtics make no goddamn sense. They zig when we think they're about to zag. It is both our blessing and our curse when it comes to following this team.

After stealing Game 6 and crushing the hearts of the Sixers and their fans, all that meant nothing if you couldn't back it up and close the deal on your own floor. Game 7s are weird where random shit happens and the next thing you know your season is over, which is mainly what makes them so stressful. When you're leading, the clock moves slower than you've ever seen before. When you're down, the clock moves at a rapid pace. Being down 5 feels like you're down 15, and being up 15 feels like you're tied. Until that clock hits 0.0, Game 7s are torture. 

Despite all that, when it came time for the Celts to step up and answer the call, they responded. Again. Just like they have so many times before. That doesn't mean they're perfect and it doesn't mean they won't do some dumb shit in the ECF, but when their backs are up against it and it's nut-cutting time, the Celtics deliver. It's all part of the package. 

The swing in narrative and perhaps the overall future of this team between the last 4 minutes of Game 6 and today has to be one of the largest swings in recent NBA history. What are we talking about today if the Celts lose Game 6 and Tatum goes 1-14 (0-6)? What are we saying today if they choked away Game 7 at home? It's a disaster. Calling it a failure wouldn't even do it justice. 

Instead, this team lives to see another day and has every chance in the world to reach the top of the mountain. It's not going to be easy, there's a shit ton of basketball to still be played, but before we even begin to think about what comes next, we have to talk about what we witnessed yesterday.

The Good

- How do I say this while still remaining someone level headed.

Jayson Tatum is going to go down as one of the greatest Celtics to ever walk this earth. 

In fact, he's already working his way onto a pretty short list despite only being 25 years old. He is him. He is that guy. He is the chosen one. Call it whatever you want, it all means the same thing.

This is one bad motherfucker

We didn't just witness one of the greatest Celtics playoff performances in franchise history, we witnessed the greatest Game 7 performance in NBA history. Jayson Tatum as we know set the record for Game 7 points with 51. Here's a list of players, both Celtics legends and otherwise, who never accomplished this feat:

Larry Bird, John Havlicek, Tommy Heinsohn, Sam Jones, Kevin McHale, Paul Pierce, Bill Russell, Dave Cowens, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Magic, Kareem, Wilt, Olajuwon, Kobe, Shaq, Tim Duncan, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Allen Iverson, Isiah Thomas, Anthony Davis, Dirk, Kevin Garnett, Jerry West, Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Melo, George Gervin, Vince Carter, Karl Malone, Dan Issel etc

I don't want to go too far, but that's a pretty impressive list of NBA legends who never put up 51 points in a Game 7. In terms of Celtics lore, it doesn't get much better than this

The shotmaking from yesterday obviously is what stands out most. The tough baseline jumper midway through the 1st, all the 3PM right in Embiid's eyeball (again), it was all great. But what I saw was a player that knew there was not a single Sixers defender that could prevent him from getting to where he wanted to go and getting what he wanted to get. Tatum looked so much more in control on his drives compared to what we saw in Game 6. He wasn't driving into traffic, and he wasn't sped up too much so by the time he got to the rim his timing was all fucked, and I couldn't help but notice that on each one of his drives it looked like he was ready and prepared for that additional Sixers defender to hedge down and try and poke the ball loose. Going up against MIA, that's going to be HUGE.

Best of all, there was no settling. In a Game 7, I can understand the appeal of going for knockout plays. But when the game is in the balance, you cannot settle defensively. How many times did we see Tatum get Embiid on the perimeter and attack? With the clock running down, did we see Tatum settle for a side step or a step back 3PA or did he take it strong to the hole? Once they got the lead, then came the dagger 3PA. It was a perfect offensive approach in the biggest game of his life.

Was this the greatest game we've ever seen Jayson Tatum play? That's a tough one. I'm not sure it passes his 46 on Giannis' head in his own building, but it's damn close given the circumstances of these playoffs. It's another 1A/1B situation for me I think. When the franchise and the city needed their #1 guy, the #1 guy responded by leading the team in points, rebounds, assists, +/-, 3PM, FTA, and was tied for steals. 

I guess maybe he does have that killer instinct we hear so much about? I dunno, maybe the jury is still out it's hard to say (extremely massive eye roll).

- It's no surprise that in the 4 games the Celtics won this series, they had a Drtg of 95.8. For reference, the #1 defense in the NBA this season had a Drtg of 109.9. That 2022 Celtics playoff defense everyone raves about? They had a Drtg of 106.3 for their entire run, and a 99.7 Drtg in the 2nd round last year. 

It's very hard for the Celtics to lose basketball games if they are allowing just 87, 102, 86, and 88 points. Do you know how hard it is to hold an NBA team in 2023 to under 90 points, let alone do it three separate times? Especially one that employs the league MVP and one of the best offenses in the league during the year? That is championship level clamps.

When Joe made the move in Game 6 to insert Rob into the starting lineup and play him around 30 minutes a night, everything changed. The plan was in place and the players' execution was flawless. Rob legitimately changes everything

When it came time to make adjustments to figure out how to stop the Embiid/Harden pick and roll, guess who delivered? 

Joe. The guy who many say is braindead and has no idea what he's doing, especially defensively, not realizing that Joe was the mastermind behind last year's defense. Malcolm told us that. So how did his adjustments and plan work to end the series? Pretty good I'd say

The minute the Celtics took away the one thing the Sixers knew how to do offensively, that was it for them. That P&R destroyed the Celts in Game 5, and unless Joe figured something out and the players went out and executed it at a high level, the season was over. 

I know how important offense is. I understand that the Celts need to make their 3PM if they want to win. But everything, and I mean EVERYTHING will always come back to how they defend. In the playoffs, you have to be able to not only get stops, but consecutive stops. Why did Game 7 open up into a blowout? Not just because Tatum went nuclear, but becaue this team got consecutive stops.

Holding a team to 10 points in a quarter? With the season on the line? That is huge stuff,

- You know what, let's relive that 28-3 run because why the fuck not

- The reason so many Celtics fans always feel confident about going up against the Sixers and Joel Embiid is simple. Matchups.

Other teams in the league really struggle against this team while trying to stop Embiid, partly because he's a monster, and mainly because they do not employ Al Horford.

The Celtics have the luxury of unleashing Horford on Embiid and completely removing him from a basketball game. It doesn't matter how old Al might be, he owns that ass

He's strong enough to provide resistance without help, he's smart enough to where he has the ability to predict and time whatever shot Embiid is about to take perfectly, what we saw in this series is nothing new. We see it every single time these two face off against each other. You will not find another big in the NBA that has had this type of consistent success guarding Joel Embiid, and that's the honest truth. The Celtics season is over if Al Horford does not put this man in jail.

Once Embiid started to get frustrated, Joe adjusted and started to send delayed doubles from all angles. There was no predictability to the looks that he gave Embiid, which is exactly how you have to approach him. If he knows what's coming and how you plan to double, he can pick you apart. When sometimes it's Smart, sometimes it's Jaylen, sometimes it's Rob, all coming from different angles and at different times, that's how you eliminate a league MVP from the conversation. Their collective approach from the coach on down was flawless.

- How about the mental toughness to not freak out early when the Celts couldn't buy a bucket and the Sixers got out to that early 9 point lead. They never let it get over 10+ which as Sean Grande keeps informing us, is the kiss of death. They didn't panic and try and force things offensively that led to turnovers, they didn't let their cold shooting impact their defense, instead the Celts just stayed the course and kept playing.

There was the potential for things to snowball after the slow start like they did in Game 5. Instead, this team took a breath, hunkered down on defense and eventually the shots dropped. That's the type of in game resilience they are going to need the rest of the way.

- While Tatum was the main story, let's not forget what Jaylen Brown also accomplished in this game on both end of the floor. On a night where he didn't have to be the #1 and could just fill his #2 scoring role, Jaylen did that and then some

Defensively, this series changed the second Jaylen made the switch to guarding James Harden. The work he did to limit Harden's productions is easily one of the most 3 important factors in this series win

Offensively, he gave you the efficient production you need from your stars in this type of game. I felt like the "others" won the Celts Game 6, so yesterday was about the franchise guys returning the favor.

Considering they combined for 76 points, I say they answered the call.

This game obviously changed on that Harden flagrant foul on Jaylen which ultimately proved to be the momentum shift you always see in these huge games. One play can change everything, and from that moment on the Celts closed 85-53. They woke up the beast.

- Won the rebounding battle, only turned the ball over 7 times, went 15-18 from the FT line, only allowed 7 OREB, these are the little things you need to win when your season is on the line. The margins are everything. 

- It took a little while, but eventually, Malcolm Brogdon's offense showed up and helped the Celts truly secure that separation. Considering the bench guards had 0 points at the half and Brogdon finished with 12 was pretty significant

The bigger surprise to me was his defense though. Harden had been cooking him all series and look at how he did in that matchup. A total of 0 points on 12 possessions. Where the hell did that come from?

Guy still cannot make a layup to save his fucking life, but if he's going to defend at an acceptable level and make some big time jumpers, I guess I can live with that.

The Bad

- I'd say probably the 1st quarter fits here. Celts gave up 29 points on 50/44%, they came out with 23 points on 36/33%, and it looked like PJ Tucker was going to have his Grant Williams moment with 11 first quarter points. I get that the whole plan was to make PJ shoot and prove he could consistently beat you, but even I can admit it got a little dicey there to start. 

The interesting thing was the Celts slow shooting start wasn't 3PA related. Only 6 of their first 25 FGA were from deep, which is why this was a little concerning. 

- I still have no idea what Georges Niang was doing/thinking in this moment

How is that not an immediate ejection? Of course Scott Foster without having any idea what happened immediately gave Jaylen a tech, which he couldn't help but talk about after the game

How was that taunting? 

Between this play and the Harden flagrant, there was no way the Basketball Gods were going to allow that team to prosper. Can't beat them straight up so you have to resort to those tactics. Shameful.

- But not more shameful than Morey/Doc/the Sixers leaking this to Woj prior to the game

When have you ever seen a tweet like that from Woj just hours before a Game 7? This is partly how you knew the Sixers were cooked before the game even started. Hey, I guess it worked though as the Sixers were given more FTA in this game.

Unfortunately, they got dick stomped anyways. Granted, we don't know what the Game 7 official report says and how many non calls impacted this ass kicking. I look forward to Woj's follow up tweet about that. 

The Ugly

- Look, the Celts were up by 30 points in an elimination game with their title hopes on the line. I think we're all set with this section for today. What would we even put here? There really wasn't a disaster worthy enough outside of the 1st quarter play. If it were up to me, this is how every blog would go. 

I will say this though. I get that the 7 man rotation was a must for this series. Great adjustment by Joe. But I do also believe playoff fatigue is real. I think there's a role for both Grant and Hauser in this series against MIA, so I don't want Joe to use the 7 man rotation as a crutch. If things get dicey, shorten it. But to start, use the spacing from both to bust the MIA zone, and as long as Duncan Robinson is on the court, so too can Sam Hauser.

As they say, you do no win a title for making the Conference Finals. That is not the goal. For the Celtics to reach their goal, they will once again have to go through the Miami Heat and Playoff Jimmy Butler. On some level, maybe this was destiny. A rematch of last year and the bubble ECF, it's going to be an absolute war. There are going to be ups and downs, highs and lows, awesome plays and dumb plays. 

All I know is that as long as you continue to love and trust, things should work out just fine.

8 down. 8 to go.