PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - MAY 11: Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics celebrates a basket against the Philadelphia 76ers during the fourth quarter in game six of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the 2023 NBA Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center on May 11, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Jayson Tatum through most of Game 6 did not have a game to remember. With the encouragement of his teammates and a talk with his coach, he stayed confident.

Coach Joe Mazzulla had one message for Tatum in a late timeout.

“I love you,” Mazzulla told Tatum. “That’s a pretty powerful statement.”

Through 3 ½ quarters of the game, Tatum was ineffective. He missed his first 15 of 16 shots and missed six 3s. After a small talk with the coach, Mazzulla Tatum rewarded his coach’s love with some 3s to put the Celtics over the top 95-86.

Tatum hit one 3 to take an 84-83 lead and then hit another 3 to take an 87-83 lead to take control of the game. The last 3 took the crowd out of it but Tatum was not done. He hit another one to put the dagger in the Sixers to go up 95-84.

The position the Celtics are in is not new to them. Last year they were down 3-2 to the Milwaukee Bucks before taking Game 6 and winning in Game 7.

For the first time since 2001, the Sixers had a chance to go to the Eastern Conference finals. Through the first half, the Sixers looked a step slower than the Celtics. Joel Embiid would turn to MVP form and help the Sixers grab the lead heading into the fourth. In the third Georges Niang hit two key 3s and then Embiid hit a pull-up mid-range to tie the game at 81.

With 5:25 left to go Tyrese Maxey made two free throws to put the Sixers up 83-81. After that, everything went downhill for them. They didn’t make a basket in the last 6:13 of the game. The Sixers could not close missing 15 of 20 shots and all eight 3s in a decisive fourth quarter.

“We stopped moving the ball,” Embiid said. “I don’t think I touched the ball the last 4 minutes of the game. Missed a lot of good looks. I didn’t touch the ball, though.”

Tatum finished with 19 points on 5-for-21 shooting but all that mattered was that he hit the shots when they needed him the most. The Celtics took a 40-26 lead because Malcolm Brogdon had three 3s but also made sure Embiid, James Harden, and Tobias Harris were ineffective.

If the Celtics want to win they have to get more out of Tatum, he has to get going early because another 1-for-15 is not acceptable for a player of his caliber. Moving Robert Williams back into the starting lineup was good and helped in the pick-and-roll.

For the Sixers, Embiid has to have one of his best games and so does Harden. Embiid needs to ball at the end of the game to draw doubles and get shooters open. Harris also needs to step up and hit shots and help control the boards as he did in Game 5.

Game 7 will be Sunday where the winner will play the winner of the Miami Heat and New York Knicks series.

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