Celtics Dominate 4th Quarter in Philly to Force Game 7

Marcus Smart lived up to his word, Jayson Tatum came alive at the right time, and the Boston Celtics' defense locked in late Thursday night in Philadelphia, where they kept their postseason alive and forced a Game 7.

The C’s and the Sixers fought back and forth throughout most of the second half inside Wells Fargo Center before the visiting team pulled away down the stretch for a 95-86 win.

Smart had one of the most impressive all-around performances of his playoff career, finishing with team-highs of 22 points and seven assists, along with seven rebounds and two steals. He also tied for the game-high in plus/minus at plus-18 in just under 42 minutes of action.

Heading into the potential elimination game, Smart declared, “If you’re not willing to get dirty, if you’re not willing to bleed, if you’re not willing to break something, willing to tear something going hard, then you shouldn’t be on that court. Because that’s what the Playoffs are about.”

He lived up to those words right out of the gate, knocking down the game-opening 3-pointer on one end, and then stripping Joel Embiid for a steal on the other.

Smart carried the team through the first three quarters with his full-throttle approach. Then in the fourth, it was Tatum time.

Tatum had one of the roughest starts to a game in his career, making just 1-of-13 from the field through the first three frames. However, that was all forgotten once he came alive in crunch time.

The All-NBA First Teamer connected on three consecutive 3-pointers down the stretch to help the C's pull away. In the final quarter, he shot 4-of-5 from deep and perfect 4-for-4 from the free-throw line.

Tatum credited his teammates for constantly encouraging him throughout his early struggles.

“You want to win so bad. You want to play so well,” he explained. “And when shots aren’t falling, things just aren’t necessarily going your way, you want it so bad. Trying to stay present, trying to stay in the moment, trying to do other things. And every timeout, every huddle, my teammates are telling me, ‘The next one’s going to go in. Keep rebounding, keep getting assists, keep getting blocks, keep impacting the game. It’s going to come. It’s going to come.’ So that was helpful, and just believing that the next one is going in.”

Tatum singlehandedly outscored Philadelphia, 16-13, in the fourth quarter, including 12-3 in the final 4:14. That brings about the final point of emphasis from the night: Boston’s clutch defense.

The Celtics entered the fourth quarter facing a 73-71 deficit, and that's when they turned up the defensive intensity a notch. In the final 12 minutes, they held Philly to just 5-of-20 shooting from the field, including 0-for-8 from long range, along with just four free-throw attempts.

Joel Embiid made a jump shot at the 6:13 mark to tie the game at 81. That would be the last Sixers' field goal until a garbage-time bucket with 22 seconds remaining – after the Celtics had already put the game out of reach.

Jaylen Brown said the message heading into the final quarter was, “Just stay the course.”

The All-NBA Second Teamer elaborated, “There were times in this game where they went on a run, they took the lead, and we didn't panic. We just stayed the course, trusted each other, and were able to pull it out toward the end. We looked each other in the eye and there was no doubt and that was the most important thing, there was no doubt in our mind that we were going to leave with a win today.”

They left with the win, and now we’ve got a Game 7 on our hands Sunday at TD Garden.