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Sunday, May 14, 2023

Jayson Tatum Scores Game Seven Record 51 Points as Celtics Roll Over Listless 76ers, 112-88

Jayson Tatum, much criticized for his slow starts and inconsistent performances in Boston's second round series versus Philadelphia, used his closing spurt in game six as a springboard to an epic 51 point outburst in game seven, leading the Celtics to a 112-88 rout of the 76ers while breaking Stephen Curry's 50 point game seven record set 13 days ago. Tatum shot 17-28 from the field (including 6-10 from three point range) while grabbing a game-high 13 rebounds and passing for a team-high five assists. He showed off his well developed, all-around offensive game, scoring from all three levels while committing no turnovers in 41 minutes. Tatum also played excellent defense. He put on a master class of how a superstar plays elite level basketball in a win or go home game. The mentoring that Tatum received from Kobe Bryant was very evident during this performance. It is pathetic that when Tatum revealed years ago that he sought guidance from Bryant some "stat gurus" asserted that Bryant would ruin Tatum's game by teaching him the supposedly outdated midrange game instead of the three point shot/free throw game preferred by "stat gurus."

Jaylen Brown also played very well, finishing with 25 points, six rebounds, two assists, two steals, and two blocked shots. At the 8:26 mark of the second quarter, James Harden received a flagrant foul after elbowing Brown in the face hard enough to draw blood but--amazingly--Brown did not need a wheelchair and he was able to keep playing. Brown made both free throws, and the Celtics closed the second quarter with a 28-17 run to take a 55-52 halftime lead. 

In the third quarter, Tatum outscored the 76ers 17-10, the other Celtics scored 16 points, and it was a wrap heading into the fourth quarter with the Celtics leading 88-62. Anonymous sideline sources texted me and stated that James Harden led a "1, 2, 3 Cancun" chant during a huddle but I have not been able to confirm that with "Woj" (sorry, but I couldn't resist trying to break news like "Woj," Chris Haynes, and Dave "Vampire" McMenamin).

Two players who did not excel during this game are the 2023 NBA regular season MVP Joel Embiid, and James Harden, the player who Daryl Morey ranks as a greater scorer than Michael Jordan. Embiid scored 15 points on 5-18 field goal shooting. He had eight rebounds, two assists, and four turnovers, almost accomplishing a "Harden" (a new statistical category comprised of a playoff game during which a player has more turnovers than field goals made). Anonymous sources texted me and said that two-time regular season MVP Nikola Jokic has filed theft charges and requested that the authorities retrieve his stolen 2023 MVP trophy from Embiid (sorry, but I just cannot resist trying out my "breaking news" chops). 

Harden's 2023 concert tour concluded with a 3-11 grand finale, and a "Harden" as he finished with more turnovers (five) than field goals made. Even when the 76ers were ahead of Brooklyn 2-0 in the first round, I noted that a statistic to watch this postseason will be Harden's turnover/field goals made ratio, pointing out that in Harden's previous six playoff games he had made 32 field goals while committing 30 turnovers. Yes, a player who was selected to the NBA's 75th Anniversary Team and was paid $33 million this season regularly struggles to amass more field goals made than turnovers in the games that matter most. Harden's nine total points and his second half disappearing act (three points, 1-3 field goal shooting, two turnovers after his team trailed by just three points at intermission) are exactly what should be expected from him based on what he has delivered throughout his playoff career, particularly in elimination games

Tobias Harris led the 76ers with 19 points, and Tyrese Maxey added 17 points, but that was not nearly enough to make up for how poorly Embiid and Harden played. I was baffled to listen to the usually sensible Greg Anthony and Sam Mitchell make excuses for Embiid and Harden by asserting that they do not have enough help. If Embiid and Harden put up 70-80 combined points on efficient shooting and the 76ers lost then perhaps that argument would hold water, but after this game no one should say anything about the supporting cast. 

The 76ers' stars failed--period, point blank, end of discussion.

It should be an interesting offseason for the 76ers. Last year after "experts" praised the Embiid-Harden duo, I wrote, "I am not sure yet who will win the Eastern Conference, but I would be very surprised if the Philadelphia 76ers win the Eastern Conference; it is much more likely that within the next two to three years Harden will be sulking, whining, and pouting his way out of Philadelphia, while Embiid continues to battle injuries." It is unfortunate that Coach Doc Rivers, the only key member of the 76ers who has won a championship, may take the fall for Morey's foolishness and the disappearing acts of Embiid and Harden. Other than begging his players to play harder--a recurring theme during Rivers' tenure with the 76ers--what magical "adjustment" is Rivers supposed to make? The "experts" love talking about adjustments, but those who understand basketball know that so-called adjustments are overrated

After the game, Embiid said, "Me and James can't win alone." Really? That is the league MVP's assessment after a game seven during which he and Harden combined to score 24 points on 8-29 field goal shooting with nine turnovers, the treasured combo "Harden" with more turnovers than field goals made. Anyone who compared the Embiid-Harden duo to Moses Malone-Julius Erving or any other all-time great duo should have his press credential revoked and his sanity evaluated.

The book Five Star Basketball includes some of the best lectures given at the legendary basketball camp, and is a must-read for players who want to improve and for fans who want to better understand the game; instead of listening to "Screamin' A," Wilbon and the other talking heads/screaming heads who do not understand basketball,  turn off the pregame/postgame shows (except for TNT's shows, of course) and read this book. One of the lectures is by Hubie Brown. Brown declared, "Don't tell me how hard you've got it. I want to know what you got. I showed you six different things today to give you something with the pressure on. Can you score in the lane? Do you understand that taking the hook from your hip instead of from your chest keeps you from getting it blocked? Do you understand the pin when a guy fronts you in the post? Do you understand how to attack the trap?"

Joel Embiid and James Harden showed us what they have, and it is evident that they do not have the all-around games needed to lead a team to victory in the second round of the playoffs. The Celtics crowded Embiid and Harden, and neither player had countermoves beyond overdribbling, turning the ball over, or making long, loping crosscourt passes that did not threaten the defense.

This is yet another chapter in Daryl Morey's amazing career that consists of maintaining employment as a top basketball executive for a decade and a half despite not accomplishing anything particularly special.

Before the Celtics won game seven, at least one Philadelphia writer suggested that a 76ers loss could lead to the Process 2.0. Anyone who received a check for the book "Tanking to the Top" should refund all proceeds on the basis of profiting based on false pretenses. The current version of the 76ers has not reached the top, and if they ever do it will not be from tanking because tanking does not work. It is reasonable to assert that the 76ers need to make changes, but maybe they should learn from the fiascos of the past decade and try to build a good foundation instead of ripping everything apart to lose intentionally.

The 76ers are difficult to ignore because of the outlandish stupidity of how the team was built via tanking and then believing that the Embiid-Harden duo would be great in the playoffs, but the Celtics deserve praise for staying the course through the ups and downs not just of this series but of the past several years. They have now reached the Eastern Conference Finals five times in the past seven seasons. Anyone trying to understand the distinction between a fluky Conference Finals appearance (hello Houston's James Harden, Atlanta's Trae Young, and Portland's Damian Lillard) versus sustained and sustainable excellence should just watch some game tapes of the Tatum-Brown Celtics to become educated. Rookie Coach Joe Mazzulla, the youngest coach in the NBA, is not perfect--no one is perfect--but he replaced the disgraced Ime Udoka on short notice and he has done an excellent job overall of leading this team to the NBA's version of the Final Four.

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posted by David Friedman @ 9:24 PM



At Monday, May 15, 2023 6:50:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


To me the most damning statistic was Embiid's 0-4 threes. In a game 7 the man who claims to be the best center in the league, indeed he is the reigning MVP, is supposed to take at least 25-30 field goal attempts, almost all of them in the paint. He's supposed to go to the post in proverbial Shaq/Kevin McHale mode, or like Olajuwon when he broke down Robinson that year that Robinson won MVP. Which brings me to another point. Real champions understand that the only MVP award that really and truly matters is Finals MVP, e.g. Jordan's six and Shaq's three and Kobe's two (to Nash's O). Instead of whining about the regular-season MVP award all this time, until recently, Embiid should have been focusing on trying to get that Finals hardware. I mean, Olajuwon showed who the best player in the league was those two years he got the Finals MVP (to Robinson's 0).

At Monday, May 15, 2023 8:34:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Harden played like a head case. all too often he penetrated into the paint, where he could've had a shot from in close, but instead dished for a 3 that was bricked. reminiscent of any former Sixer PG from the recent past? (last name Simmons...)

speaking of other big-name PGs, Harden's implosion coincided with the day of Morant's most recent downfall (assuming the video wasn't doctored, seemingly a safe assumption at this point), which should/will lead to a long suspension.

well, at least that's only three headcase big-money PGs ... not like Harden has any recent connection to another headcase PG. oh, wait, there's Kyrie.

why so many headcase PGs with the 9-figure contracts?

At Tuesday, May 16, 2023 1:36:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

“Concert tour” has always struck me as a bit odd because unless a player makes 12 or more FGs and misses less than 30/31, pretty much any FGM/FGA line could conceivably be a concert date as long as it isn’t too early in the month. Harden isn’t really even touring — he’s just stacking dates in mid-march,
with some February gigs mixed in there. August 11th can be a lovely day for a concert, a little holiday show on December 23rd can work, Arctic Monkeys on July 13th in should be a fun show, although it is all the way in France.

At Tuesday, May 16, 2023 10:58:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


"Late Spring Concert Tour" may be more technically precise, but I think that Jalen Rose's original "Concert Tour" quip is both funny and apt: Harden is supposed to be making at least 8-10 field goals per game with a good field goal percentage, but far too often he has March, April, or May makes (3,4,5) with a low percentage. If you analyze any joke too literally then you lose the humor, but "Concert Tour" without overanalysis is a great way to describe what Harden does in key games. It also fits because he throws in these little side trips to Vegas or other places during the season or at times in the offseason when, clearly, he should be working on developing his game for the crucial situations during which he habitually fails.

At Tuesday, May 16, 2023 1:23:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Harden has mental issues, like Simmons, Morant, and Irving. maybe someone should ask why so many of these nine-figure salary PGs are headcases. actually I did ask that in my prior comment


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