Jaylen Brown emerged from a hard fall, bloodied and reenergized by a hit to the face on a play that eventually earned James Harden a flagrant foul.
The Celtics had certainly taken their share of punches at TD Garden. They were 3-3 at home this postseason heading into the game. And of course, the Bruins lost in the first round in the same building.
But on Sunday afternoon Boston came back with a haymaker, blowing Philadelphia off the parquet floor with a 112-88 victory in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
“Nothing like a shot to the face to wake you right up,” Brown said. “It sparked the Garden. I called the Garden out last game, and what a way to respond. The energy in the building was through the roof, it was amazing. Everybody that was cheering for the Celtics, I feel like we could feel that energy tonight and it definitely carried over. We’re going to need some more of that.”
Brown had removed the protective mask he’d been wearing on his face since February before the impact with Harden. He joked after the Mother’s Day win that his mom was probably going to say that’s why he should be wearing it.
The Celtics came into Sunday’s game expecting a heavyweight fight with league MVP Joel Embiid and Harden, a three-time scoring champ. Marcus Smart said the game was going to be like Ali vs. Frazier.
But the Celtics had this one wrapped up early. So early that the “Gino Time” video — which signals to the crowd a game is out of reach — played on the jumbotron with four minutes to go in the fourth quarter. The Celtics were up by 30.
Next comes a pair of home games at TD Garden on Wednesday and Friday to open the Eastern Conference Finals against Miami.
“I’m going to go home, have a glass of wine, and start watching film on Miami,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said of his plans to celebrate his first Game 7 win.
Boston unleashed a 33-5 run on Philadelphia in the third quarter and the Sixers looked ready to throw in the towel by the end of it. The atmosphere at TD Garden quickly became celebratory as Jayson Tatum scored an NBA Game 7 record 51 points.
Super Bowl LIII MVP Julian Edelman chugged a beer and dropped the cup like a comedian would drop a microphone. Patriots owner Robert Kraft yelled “Let’s go,” pumping the crowd up. Celtics fans sang the Sixers goodbye as the Celtics closed out the fourth quarter.
“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to the crowd,” Tatum said. “This is probably the loudest the Garden has been in like a year. We fed off that energy. The energy they had today helped us … they feed off of us, we feed off of them, the building was just rocking. Everybody was standing up. My emotions just kind of got the best of me in a good way.”
Khari Thompson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.