In Thursday’s lone playoff game, the Boston Celtics went on a 18-7 run in the final five minutes to eliminate a plucky but patchy Atlanta Hawks display on their home floor. How did they do it, Jayson Tatum was asked postgame. Consistently making winning plays in the fourth quarter, doing whatever it takes – with a well-rested Philadelphia 76ers side awaiting them this weekend.
Doing whatever it takes, leading by example
- Boston are now 23-1 when Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown both score 30 points (regular season and playoffs) after fourth quarter finish
- Atlanta run out of steam late on, as Trae Young endures frustrating second-half and others unable to make enough defensive stops
- Eastern Conference semifinal matchup between Philadelphia and Boston begins in the early hours on Tuesday (tip-off at 12.30am BST)
Jaylen Brown led all scorers with 32 points in 40 minutes, as the Boston Celtics intensified their defence down the stretch and made a series of big plays under pressure to secure their passage into the Eastern Conference semi-finals overnight.
The 26-year-old has scored 30 or more points in three consecutive games for the first time in his career, whether regular season or playoffs, and it’s testament to his scoring ability and overall progression that this is no surprise either.
“I don’t ask the guys to do anything I wouldn’t, pick up full court, block shots, dive on the floor, it starts from the top and the rest will follow.
This was a tough one, felt good that we won – we were locked in, all on the same page and switching at the point of contact. It’s gonna be fun in Philly, exciting, enjoy this [win] and onto the next one.”
- Tatum on making defensive sacrifices, gritting out a tough win and moving into the next round
Tatum has long been deemed Boston’s bonafide leader, Brown his co-star, and the four-time All-Star acknowledged multiple players like Al Horford and Marcus Smart contributed with big shots as he produced a quiet 30-point, 14-rebound showing.
He was lively late with five points, three rebounds, an assist, block and steal in the final 4:23 as Atlanta’s attacking options stagnated and shots weren’t falling: Brown, Robert Williams III and Tatum all made important defensive plays down the stretch.
It’ll be interesting to see what Atlanta do over the offseason, given how two weeks ago they were a poor quarter’s basketball away from missing the playoffs altogether.
Saddiq Bey was a shrewd winter acquisition, though you’d ideally want more producton from John Collins – whose contract continues to slide upwards next year ($25m, then $26.5m in 2024-25) and De’Andre Hunter remains inconsistent too.
After a steady Year 3, 22-year-old center Onyeka Okongwu is eligible to sign a rookie-scale extension between July and October this year, and he impressed during this series. Can they afford him to be a restricted free agent in twelve months’ time?
They were ultimately beaten by a team with more depth, better quality and invaluable playoff experience which is never something to be ashamed of. Bridging the gap, given their existing financial constraints, remains the biggest question of all.
As for Boston, they’ll be glad to avoid the unpredictability of a Game 7 – having squandered an opportunity to close out a gentleman’s sweep at home earlier in the week – and now face a 76ers side who also have big ambitions for this postseason.
Game 6, Western Conference first-round
1am: Golden State Warriors vs. Sacramento Kings
3.30am: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Memphis Grizzlies
Game 1, West Semis – Denver Nuggets vs. Phoenix Suns (1.30am BST)
Game 7 matchups for Memphis vs. LA and/or Sacramento vs. Golden State if necessary
Game 1, East Semis – New York Knicks vs. Miami Heat (6pm BST)
Picture source: Getty Images