BOSTON — Jason Tatum scored 51 points — the most in a game of 7 in NBA history — and the Boston Celtics defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 112-88 on Sunday to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second year in a row.
In one game after missing 14 of his first 15 shots only to wake up in the fourth quarter, Tatum got the fast start the Celtics needed.
He scored 25 in the first period back-and-forth and another 17 in the third quarter 33-10 Boston that converted a three-point lead into the Runaways.
The Los Angeles Lakers, who lost to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals last year, will face the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, which begin Wednesday in Boston.
Tatum added 13 rebounds, and Jaylen Brown scored 25 points for the Celtics, who rallied from a 3-2 deficit in the best-of-seven series to keep their hopes alive for an unprecedented 18th NBA championship.
Tatum exited the match with three minutes left to a standing ovation from the crowd, which quickly erupted into “Beat the Heat!” hymn.
Newly crowned NBA Most Valuable Player Joel Embiid scored 15 points on 5-for-18 shooting, and Tobias Harris scored 19 for Philadelphia.
The Sixers lost in the Conference Semifinals for the third year in a row, and the fifth time in six seasons. They haven’t advanced further since reaching the NBA Finals in 2001.
Tatum started 0-for-6 in the Game 5 loss and missed 14 of his first 15 shots overall from the floor in Game 6 before exploding for four three-pointers in the final 4:14 to force a deciding game seven.
Picking up where he left off, he scored Boston’s first basket and 11 points in the first quarter, 14 more in the second and single-handedly beat the Sixers, 17-10, in the third.
The 33-10 edge in the third quarter was the most lopsided Game 7 quarter since at least 1997.