Marcus Smart reacts to a call during Game 6 in Philadelphia

Keys to the Game: Celtics 95, 76ers 86

Marc D'Amico
Team Reporter and Analyst

Key Moment

Jayson Tatum’s offensive fell into rhythm at the perfect time Thursday night to force Game 7 back at TD Garden on Sunday.

Tatum struggled through the first three-plus quarters of the game at the offensive end of the floor. While he contributed in many other ways, he had shot 1-for-13 from the field to that point and looked completely out of sorts in the scoring department.

Then he got to the free-throw line 33 seconds into the fourth quarter, and everything changed.

Converting on those free throws was just what the doctor ordered to remedy Tatum’s rhythm. As the rest of the quarter unfolded, with Boston and Philadelphia volleying small leads back and forth, Tatum eventually erupted for 14 more points to separate the C’s from their opponent. 

He caught fire with 4:14 remaining by canning two 3-pointers in a span of just 39 seconds. Those triples turned a two-point deficit into a four-point lead.

Shortly thereafter, with the Celtics leading by five heading into the final two minutes of regulation, Tatum put the Sixers to sleep with two more triples. The first arrived at the 1:53 mark over the outstretched hand of Tyrese Maxey to push Boston ahead by eight. Then the final dagger fell through the net with 37.6 seconds over Joel Embiid to guarantee one last matchup between the two division rivals to determine which team will advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.

What impeccable timing by Tatum’s offense to rise up for the kill. Tatum’s teammates carried him through the first three quarters, but he put them on his back and carried them home.

Key Player

Everyone – and we mean everyone – will be talking about Jayson Tatum following his monumental fourth-quarter performance Thursday night. What should not be lost in the shuffle is Marcus Smart’s unwavering effort that kept the Celtics afloat through the first three-plus quarters of the game.

Smart was excellent at both ends of the court, impacting the game far beyond his impressive box score line. He tallied team-best totals of 22 points and seven assists while also adding in seven rebounds and two steals. He was a steadying force for Boston throughout a contest that featured uneven play by the C’s. Without him, Boston would not have had a chance to win it during the final minutes. It’s as simple as that.

So while Tatum deservedly will earn praise for his fourth-quarter scoring eruption, heap the praise on Smart as well. He was the unsung hero of this game for the Celtics.

Box Score Nuggets

- Marcus Smart, with 22 points, was the only Celtics player who scored more than 19.

- Jayson Tatum outscored the 76ers all by himself during the fourth quarter, by a count of 16-13.

- Smart and Robert Williams led the game in plus/minus rating at plus-18.

- Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey led the game with 26 points apiece.

- Al Horford led the game with 11 rebounds.

- Boston scored nine more points than Philadelphia while attempting five fewer shots.

- Boston's bench outscored Philly's 25-11, thanks in large part to Malcolm Brogdon's 16 points.

- Philadelphia grabbed 14 steals. Four of its players grabbed multiple steals.

Quote of the Night

"We say it all the time: 'Find a way, whatever that way is.' It may be different any given night, but we figured it out tonight."

- Jayson Tatum on Boston forcing Game 7