After two consecutive wins, the Philadelphia 76ers had a golden opportunity to close their Eastern Conference semifinal series with the rival Boston Celtics in front of their boisterous home crowd in Game 6 on Thursday night and end their conference finals drought, but they were ultimately unable to do so.
After a slow start to the game in which they trailed 15-3 behind the gate, the Sixers shrugged off some early nerves, climbed back into the game over the course of the first half and trailed by only seven at halftime. They managed to completely eliminate that deficit in the third quarter and went into the final phase with a two-point lead. At that point, they were in control of their own destiny – 3-2 in the series with a lead heading into the fourth quarter in their own building. Closeout odds don’t get much more ideal than that.
Things didn’t go the way Philadelphia wanted it to in that fourth quarter, however, as their offense stalled and they could only collect 13 points in the last 12 minutes of action. The Celtics, on the other hand, scored 24 points in that same span to clinch a season-saving 95–86 victory. Now the series is tied at three games apiece and the deciding Game 7 will be played in Boston, where the Celtics will have the home crowd – and any sustained momentum – behind them. Here’s a look at the start time, display information, odds, storylines and a prediction for the match.
Celtics vs. 76ers, Game 7
- Date: Sunday May 14 | Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
- Place: TD Garden – Boston, Massachusetts
- TV channel: ABC | Live stream: fuboTV (free trial)
- Chances: Celts -6.5; O/U 201 (via Caesars Sportsbook)
76ers: This closeout game is all about star power for Philadelphia. The Sixers need their two stars — Joel Embiid and James Harden — to make a big splash if they want to secure their first conference finals berth since 2001. Embiid has been solid in the series, but he almost went the last four minutes of Game 6 without taking a shot as Philly’s game slipped away. That’s just not possible. The big man must be assertive and dominant from the opening tip. If he can put constant pressure on Boston’s defense, get them into trouble and create open chances for his teammates, the Sixers should have a real chance of walking away with a win.
Likewise, the Sixers need an aggressive version of James Harden. Harden has had two 40-point appearances in the series, but he scored in the teens in the other four games. He needs to come out with an aggressive mindset and aim to collapse Boston’s defense. I wrote that last week Harden’s level of aggression could ultimately decide the seriesand it stays that way.
Celts: The goal for the Celtics should be to get Jayson Tatum going earlier in the game. Tatum has struggled mightily in the first halves of recent games, totaling just three points in the first three quarters of Game 6 before exploding for 16 points in the final frame to save the Celtics’ season. Tatum averaged more than 30 points per game during the regular season, but he has only broken the 30-point mark twice in the six games in the series so far. Much of that is due to the struggles in the first half. A stronger start would likely lead to a more consistent productive performance, so look for Boston to be proactive about generating enough scoring opportunities for Tatum early in Game 7.
This has been a back and forth series and it’s hard to predict how it will end as neither team has been particularly consistent. Although I picked the 76ers in seven games prior to the start of the series, so I’m sticking with it. For that to happen, both Embiid and Harden must be at the peak of their powers, as mentioned above. The Sixers have already won twice in this series in Boston, so they are clearly capable of it. The game is getting pretty close anyway, so even if the Celtics win, I’ll take the Sixers with the points. Choose: 76ers +6.5