Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics targeted Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid on a number of occasions Sunday, running pick-and-rolls just to get Tatum matched up with the NBA MVP and defensive enforcer.
And it worked time and time again for the Green in their 112-88 victory in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at TD Garden on Sunday afternoon.
Perhaps nothing depicts that better than the fact Tatum scored 24 points of his record-setting 51 points when being guarded by Embiid. Boston’s All-NBA First Team selection shot 80% from the field (8-for-10) and a perfect 100% from long range (4-for-4) when Embiid was the primary defender. Tatum also went to the rack an additional two times in which he was fouled by Embiid, hitting all four of his free throws.
Scoring 17 of his 51 points in the third quarter, Tatum eclipsed his pregame scoring prop of over/under 28.5 points with 21 minutes left in the game.
Unfortunately for Embiid, he wasn’t much better on the offensive end. Embiid was limited to 15 points on 18 shots (5-for-18) as Al Horford and the Celtics defense executed perfect schemes with timely double teams resulting in four turnovers by Embiid.
With Tatum proving far and away the best player on the floor in the winner-take-all contest, the Celtics used a 33-10 third quarter to advance to their fifth conference finals in the last seven seasons. Boston now is a massive betting favorite to take down the Miami Heat with the best-of-seven starting Wednesday at TD Garden.