Four-time All-Star Jayson Tatum is savouring his Boston Celtics’ upcoming Eastern Conference Finals rematch against the Miami Heat, after stomping out the Philadelphia 76ers 112-88 on Sunday with a record-breaking 51 points in Game 7.
The Celtics beat the Heat a year ago en route to the NBA Finals, where it lost to the Golden State Warriors. Tatum promised there would be fireworks when its rivalry with Miami continues this week.
“They make plays and they figure out a way to win games. It’s going to be fun, it’s going to be highly competitive,” said Tatum.
“As a competitor, you just love the opportunity.”
It will mark the third time the two teams have met in the conference finals in four seasons, after the Heat came out on top in 2020 before losing the championship series against the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Heat has enjoyed a charmed run as the first eighth seed in nearly a quarter-century to reach the conference finals.
But Tatum’s Sunday showstopper - with 13 rebounds, five assists and the most points ever in a Game 7 - surely sent a chill even through the balmy shores of South Beach.
“Being in another Game 7, being able to come back home in front of our fans, I was really excited for the moment,” he told reporters.
Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla said the performance was as much a credit to Tatum’s physical skill as his mental toughness, after overcoming a sluggish start to Game 6 when the Sixers had them on the ropes.
“(Tatum is) just a guy who doesn’t get too high or too low,” said Mazzulla.
“When you play like that and live like that, I think it works out for him ... He’ll have the humility to just keep going.”
The Celtics and the Heat meet for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals in Boston on Wednesday.
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