The Boston Celtics stayed alive in the Eastern Conference semifinals with a 95-86 win over the Philadelphia 76ers. The win was largely credited to coach Joe Mazzulla’s decision to go back to a big lineup, which included Al Horford playing as the defensive center and Robert Williams III playing a prowling free safety. The lineup had yet to play a second in the series against Philadelphia before the game, but worked to freeze the 76ers’ ball movement, forcing them to shoot poorly and leading to a 11 straight misses in the fourth quarter.
Jayson Tatum, the star player, was initially struggling in the game before scoring 16 points in the final quarter to save the day for the Celtics. Tatum, who had been struggling in the previous games and was subjected to criticism, was motivated by the fear of failure. He made classic remarks, including “I’m humbly, one of the best basketball players in the world” during the post-game interview. Tatum’s teammates had also rotated to speak into his ear trying to motivate him.
The Celtics’ reputation was at stake, with Mazzulla being criticized for his tactical moves in his first major series as head coach. Some members of the team felt that the big lineup was essential, and Mazzulla eventually relented to their demands. The win saved the Celtics’ season, and Tatum’s performance resurrected his reputation.