NBA playoff daily: Celtics force Game 7, Nuggets blow out Suns to advance (2023)

Thursday's doubleheaderNBAplayoff basketball involved two possible elimination games. BothThe Celts-Sixers andGold nuggetssunbathingseries was 3-2 heading into Game 6 Thursday night as the Sixers and Nuggets led their respective series.

But that wasn't the case for Celtics-Sixers, as the Celtics then forced a Game 7slog Sixers 95-86. Jayson Tatum stepped up when Boston needed him most and delivered. However, the sun was not so lucky. They wereblown out by the Nuggets 125-100and saw their season end in the conference semifinals for the second straight year. Denver is the first team to advance to the conference finals in this year's playoffs.


There were also a handful of notable developments heading into Thursday's games. The Celtics changed their starting lineup, withRobert Williams III replaces Derrick White in Thursday's elimination game in Philadelphia, whichAthleticsShams Charania and Celtics beat writer Jared Weiss reported for the game.The Suns were without Deandre Ayton as Shams Charania also reported early in the day that he had been ruled out with a rib contusion. The Suns were also without Chris Paul, as they had been since Game 2, after there were hopes he would return in time for the elimination game. The Suns' starting lineup also saw a change without Ayton, as Jock Landale was brought into the lineup to replace Ayton.

Here is a recap of Thursday's series of games.

Game 6: Celtics 95, Sixers 86, Series tied 3-3

Like what they man:Jayson Tatum. After a miserable first three quarters offensively, scoring just 3 points and shooting 1 of 13 from the field, he didn't seem to waver in his belief and confidence. He hit only his first 3 in the fourth quarter and then hit back-to-back 3s to cap a 6-0 run. He scored 11 of the Celtics' final 13 points with 1:31 left in the fourth quarter. Tatum finished with 19 total points, 16 of them in the fourth quarter alone, shooting 4 of 8 from the field and 4 of 5 from 3 in the fourth.

"I'm humbled to be one of the best basketball players in the world," Tatum said in his interview with Cassidy Hubbarth on the court after the game. "Go through games, go through crises. It's a long game. Fortunately, I have a couple of teammates who hold me back."

And as he struggled to get snaps, Tatum found some other ways to contribute. He grabbed nine total rebounds, eight on defensive boards, and also dished out six assists, forced two steals and blocked two shots.


Main statistics:The Celtics outrebounded the Sixers 50-38 and limited Philly to six offensive rebounds. Keeping the Sixers off the offensive glass limited them to just eight rematch points throughout the game. The Celtics' 44 defensive rebounds also helped them switch and capitalize on those opportunities.

This is how the match was won:Boston's defense in the fourth quarter, especially in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter. They limited the Sixers to 13 points in the fourth quarter, and the Sixers missed all eight three-point attempts and shot 5 of 20 from the field in the fourth. The Celtics also outscored the Sixers 24-13 in the fourth quarter to create that split and secure the win.

How the Sixers lost:After the Sixers came back from a 16-point deficit in the second quarter, the Sixers and Celtics went back and forth in the second half of the game. In the dying minutes of the fourth quarter, however, the Sixers seemed to lose steam. They missed more shots and made just five total shots in the fourth quarter. They also couldn't get stops on the other side of the floor.

Moment of the game:Jayson Tatum hit back-to-back 3s late in the fourth quarter. A personal 6–0 run also gave the Celtics a four-point lead with 3:34 left in the game. This also marked the beginning of Tatum's 16 point fourth quarter streak.



— NBA (@NBA)12 maj 2023

X-factor:Marcus Slim. He was the glue all game and one of Boston's best players in Game 6. He controlled the game on the offensive side of the floor and made smart decisions. Defensively, he was impressive and led them on the defensive end of the floor. He finished the game with 22 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and two steals. He shot 8-of-15 from the field and 3-of-8 from 3.


What's next:The Celtics force a Game 7 at home in Boston on Sunday. The series is now tied 3-3, with the winner advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals. The stakes are high in Game 7 for both teams — not just advancing to the next round, but it would be the first time the Sixers have reached the Eastern Conference Finals since 2001.

Game 6: Nuggets 125, Suns 100, Denver wins series 4-2

Like what they man:Nikola Jokic. He scored 14 points in the first quarter, as well as five assists and four rebounds. He was offensively dominant in the paint, finding his floater or handing out assists to his open teammates. He also finished the game with a triple-double of 33 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds.

Main statistics:The Nuggets shot 61.7 percent from the field in the first half and scored 81 points. Yes, you read that right. This one was quickly over.

This is how the match was won:The Nuggets' offensive success set the tone from the jump and they dominated in the paint as they scored 44 of their first half points in the paint. Their 44-point first quarter helped build a comfortable lead for the Nuggets, and it continued to grow in the second quarter. At the halfway point, they had a 30-point lead over the Suns. They managed to hold on to a double-digit lead throughout the second half to keep the Suns at arm's length.

How the sun lost:For Phoenix, this game was pretty much over in the first half as they fell into a 30-point deficit at the end of the first half. BothKevin DurantIDevin Bookerstruggled offensively, which they couldn't afford with Paul out. The Suns struggled offensively, shooting 18-of-45 from the field and 7-of-14 from 3 in the first half. They also turned the ball over eight times in the first half, which the Nuggets turned into 16 points on turnovers. But more importantly, the Suns couldn't get any stops on the defensive end. Then, in the second half — while the Suns won both the third and fourth quarters to beat the Nuggets 25-22 and then 24-22 — it was too big a hole to climb out of.

Moment of the game:If a quarter can be the time of the game, the Nuggets' offensive dominance was in the first quarter. With 44 points in the first quarter, they took the wind out of the Footprint Center. They totaled 17 shots, shot 63 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from 3. Again, they dominated in the paint from the jump.

X-factor:Jamal MurrayIKentavy Caldwell-Pauswere both important X-factors for the Nuggets, especially on the offensive end of the floor. Murray finished the game with 26 points, shooting 7 of 16 from the field and 4 of 7 from 3, while Caldwell-Pope finished with 21 points, 7 of 11 from the field and 2 of 5 from 3. Thursday was a confidence boost for Caldwell-Pope, especially offensively as he attacked the basket and found his shots.


What's next:The Nuggets advance to the Western Conference Finals and wait to see who their opponent is depending on the outcomeLakerswarriorsseries. The Suns saw their season end in the conference semifinals for the second consecutive year.

(Topbilleder: AARon Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)

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