The Boston Celtics answered all my questions in Game 6 — and now I’m confused

With an insane Game 6, complete with an absolutely wild Jayson Tatum game, the Boston Celtics answered a lot of questions -- but am I any less confused? Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
With an insane Game 6, complete with an absolutely wild Jayson Tatum game, the Boston Celtics answered a lot of questions -- but am I any less confused? Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

I totally saw that one coming…is what I would have said if I was a clairvoyant wizard (or corgi) capable of predicting the future irrespective of what my eyes, ears, and heart rate told me. But even if I was able to do that, I would still have been unable to ignore what the pearls of sweat dripping down my brow and the unshakable sense of impending doom were telling me: the Boston Celtics were completely screwed.

With 5:57 left in Game 6, Jaylen Brown was stripped at the top of the key by Tyrese Maxey. Jayson Tatum then committed a clear-path foul, granting the 76ers two free throws and the ball. The crowd was ravenous, and Maxey triumphantly pointed his fists straight outward to make the signal for a clear path, before essentially dancing around in celebration.

This play was a pure calamity and encompassed everything about this Celtics team that has infuriated fans for almost two full years. It had all the greatest hits: Brown being unable to cleanly dribble the basketball, a turnover, and then a brainless frustration foul from Tatum that managed to make the whole situation worse.

As ESPN showed what felt like a few hundred-thousand angles of Maxey dancing on the Boston Celtics’ collective grave, I started thinking dark thoughts. Tatum would be maligned by every member of sports media for an entire summer for his abysmal one-for-a-billion shooting performance in an elimination game, and I began thinking of ways to write this team’s obituary.

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here this somber afternoon to pay our respects to the departed. The 2022-2023 Boston Celtics, an immensely talented team led by two dynamic young players, one of which could not buy a bucket in a do-or-die elimination game in Philadelphia, forever tarnishing his legacy and cosigning him to obliv…”

…but then Tatum hit a 3-pointer. And then he hit another one. The 76ers stood around and watched it happen. And then Tatum hit two more just to make sure, and rather than dancing on the 76ers’ grave as the final buzzer sounded, he merely laughed, and hugged Brown, both understanding the absurdity of what had just transpired.

Whatever you thought about this Celtics team going into Thursday night, the heart attack-in-a-to-go-box that was that basketball game confirmed it.

Are they the most talented roster in the league, capable of blowing out an opponent on their home floor? The 16-point lead in the second quarter says so. Are they instead choke artists with a mental block so heavy it would take a hydraulic press to move it off of their collective psyche? It certainly seemed like it.

Is Marcus Smart an overzealous wild man who draws crazy charges and dives single-handedly into a crowd with the game on the line? You got it. Or is he actually the alpha, tone-setting glue that keeps this team fighting even when the going gets tough? Yep.

Is Tatum still lacking in a real clutch gene, never fully exorcising the demons of his abysmal NBA Finals performance? He certainly was that way for 42 minutes. Or is he a bona fide megastar with unparalleled shot-making ability, ready to save this team from the depths of its own personal Tartarus when they need him most? You bet.

When I predicted that Tatum had a Game 6 hero job in him based on last year’s performance, this was not what I had in mind. As if being down 3-2 in opposing territory was not back-to-the-wall enough, Tatum had to wait until he had gone 1-14 and the Celtics were 5 minutes from elimination to show up. But I guess it worked, which is what matters. Even if it made me want to throw up.

Was that overdramatic? Probably, but that game was something out of a tragic horror film mixed with an uplifting romantic comedy. It had all the trappings of a disastrous blown-lead elimination game, but it also felt like judgment day for Tatum’s whole career. But then, in an instant, he became a hero, the Boston Celtics lived to fight another day.

The Boston Celtics face another Game 7 after two in 2022 postseason

Game 7 will be a rock fight. Both teams will pull out every arrow in their quiver, desperate not only to win but also to leave the court, win or lose, knowing they did everything they could.

But it will also be a religious revival meeting, with the Boston crowds desperate for salvation from the torturous purgatory of only being semi-confident in this team.

Praying that come Sunday night, we’ll be singing Hallelujah.