Celtics defense clamps down

In the end, defense prevailed.

Not the show-time offensive displays, though there were some.

Jayson Tatum’s 51 points … well, when your best player scores 51 that is going to have at least an itsy, bitsy impact on the outcome.

But even while maintaining the hot hand he discovered at the end of Game 6, Tatum went on the attack when the shocked and awed 76ers had the ball. And his 51 points relieved his teammates of scoring responsibilities. They could employ their energies to swarm the Sixers defensively.

The Celtics’ played the sort of defense they have played all season and them some. Al Horford was a major force in earning the C’s their spot in the Eastern Conference finals. He scored a piddling 10 points. But his looming presence in the paint produced 10 rebounds and shut down lanes that, all-too often, looked like six-lane highways when Philly gained a 3-2 advantage.

Joel Embiid scored 15 harmless points. James Harden, who previously made the Celtics look silly, scored nine points.

Philadelphia scored 88 points. Even that was a bit inflated when the far end of the Celtics bench, anchored by Justin Champagne, mopped up before the party kicked into high gear.

Just before the white flag began waving above the visitors bench, the Celtics ignored any gentlemanly instincts. Marquis of Queensbury rules were supplanted by Marcus of Smart rules. A final spread of 40 points or more was within grasp.

Not that the final spread really meant much. They held Philly to 88 points. Had they won 90-88 the only difference would have been in New England’s collective blood pressure.

Note to Celtics fans: Don’t be fooled by the Miami Heat’s inferior talent. Be ready to yell at your TV. Calm your gesticulations in the bar lest you knock a fellow fan’s beer onto the floor.

It won’t be easy. In the playoffs, the Celtics rarely make it easy.

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