Midway through the fourth quarter, it looked like the headlines would be talking about how Jayson Tatum was unable to deliver when his team needed him most. His Boston Celtics had blown a 16-point lead and the Philadelphia 76ers had managed to retake a small lead.
Many players, including some of the league’s best, would have lost their confidence and stopped shooting at that point. However, Tatum’s unshakeable belief in himself ended up paying dividends as he one-handedly took over on the offensive end to close out Game 6 and force the deciding Game 7 in Boston.
Starting from the 4:14 mark in the fourth quarter, Tatum made four three-pointers, which helped the Celtics regain the advantage and then pad it. His last triple, with 37.1 seconds left on the clock, iced the game after giving them a 95-84 lead.
It’s hard to describe how much irrational confidence you need to have to keep shooting under such duress. It’s the mark of someone who knows that they’ve put in the work in the gym and has the mental fortitude to ignore all self-doubt and fear. Tatum finished the game shooting 5 of 21 overall and 4 of 11 from deep to end up with 19 points, nine rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks. 16 of those points came in the fourth quarter and that’s what won them the game.
Marcus Smart also had a good game for Boston, leading them in scoring with 22 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and two steals. Jaylen Brown, who had a scary slip in the second half, had 17 points, six rebounds and four assists. Malcolm Brogdon also chipped in 16 points and six rebounds off the bench.
The Sixers will be disappointed with the defeat but can only blame themselves for their mental collapse in the game’s closing moments. They couldn’t make a shot and only scored three points in the final 5:57 of the game, which opened the door for Tatum to close the game out.
That wasted 26 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks from Joel Embiid along with 26 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals from Tyrese Maxey. James Harden also couldn’t find his shooting touch, finishing 4 of 16 overall and 0 of 6 from beyond the arc.
The hard-fought series continues for one more game, and you have to wonder if the Sixers will have enough left in the tank after the heartbreaking defeat. They did win Game 5 in Boston, but they’ll now have to do it with all of the pressure that comes with a Game 7.