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Keys to the Game: Celtics 109, 76ers 101

Marc D'Amico
Team Reporter and Analyst

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Key Moment

Enes Kanter didn’t start Game 1. He only played eight total minutes in the game. Still, he initiated and created the most important play of Boston’s Game 1 victory over the 76ers.

Boston was sputtering – and trailing – early in the fourth quarter after leading for the majority of the contest to that point. Philadelphia had just taken a three-point lead off of a free throw from Joel Embiid.

The Celtics couldn’t get anything cooking on their ensuing offensive possession. As the shot clock ticked down toward zero, and after only three total passes on the possession, Jayson Tatum was forced to attempt a challenged, fadeaway jumper from the free-throw line. It missed, and with Joel Embiid and Al Horford camped out in the paint for Philadelphia, it appeared as if the Sixers would grab the rebound and have a chance to open up a two-possession lead.

Then Kanter stepped up and did what he does: he crashed the offensive glass. Twice.

First, Kanter tried to tip in the miss with his right hand, but his shot didn’t make it over the front of the rim. Then, he grabbed his own miss and took a dribble along the baseline before leaping into the air as he faced away from and faded away from the basket.

It appeared as if Kanter was in no-man’s land when he took off from the ground, but instead, he found a way to dish out quite possibly the most important assist of his career. As he turned in the air, he whipped a one-handed pass with his right hand out to Jaylen Brown, who was wide-open beyond the 3-point line on the left wing. Brown caught the pass and fired up a shot in rhythm that dropped through the net to tie the game up at 86-86.

That rebound, and that bucket, shot energy into the Celtics. They went on to score the game’s next six points as well to take a 92-86 lead, and their lead never dropped to fewer than three points the rest of the way.

Key Player

While many on the outside expected Joel Embiid to be the most dominant player on the court during this first-round series, it was Jayson Tatum who dominated Game 1 between the Celtics and the Sixers.

Tatum recorded a game-high 32 points Monday night on 10-for-21 shooting from the field. He got to the line for a team-best 11 free throw attempts and connected on 10 of them to lead the entire game in that category.

His performance didn’t stop there. Tatum also hauled in 13 rebounds to lead the Celtics and blocked three shots to lead the game. His three blocks matched Philadelphia’s team total on the night.

It’s no surprise that Boston was at its best while the third-year star was on the court. The C’s outscored Philadelphia by 19 points during his more than 41 minutes of action, which was by far the top plus/minus rating of the game.

Box Score Nuggets

  • Jayson Tatum (32 points) and Jaylen Brown (29 points) became the first pair of Celtics teammates at age 23 or younger to each score 25 points in the same playoff game.
  • Tatum also grabbed a team-best 13 rebounds and blocked a game-high three shots.
  • Philadelphia's bench outscored Boston's 23-8.
  • The Celtics attempted 10 more shots (90-80) than the Sixers.
  • Joel Embiid led Philly with 26 points and 16 rebounds.
  • Boston forced the Sixers into 18 turnovers.
  • Kemba Walker scored 19 points and led the C's with five assists.
  • Tobias Harris led the game with eight assists.
  • Boston shot 23-for-26 (88.5 percent) from the free-throw line.
  • Gordon Hayward grabbed four steals to lead all players. His total fell just one shy of Philly's team total.
  • Brown shot 5-for-8 from long distance and made all six of his free throws.
  • Despite being at a size disadvantage, Boston outrebounded Philadelphia on the offensive end by a count of 16-15.

Quote of the Night

Kemba Walker on Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown