Up until this postseason, nobody had ever scored 50 points in an NBA Game 7. It was a seemingly unobtainable milestone, and for good reason. Once six games have been played, defenses have largely figured out how to slow down opposing offenses. Stars find their points, but typically do so inefficiently, and the final scores are almost always quite low. Kevin Durant, Dominique Wilikins, Sam Jones, Luka Doncic and Magic Johnson all came close, but nobody had ever crossed that 50-point threshold ... until two weeks ago.
Stephen Curry did what had been the impossible on April 30 when the Golden State Warriors defeated the Sacramento Kings to advance to the second round. It was a remarkable performance unmatched across nearly eight decades of NBA history — and it took all of two weeks for someone to top it.
Jayson Tatum had gotten off to slow starts throughout Boston's second-round series against Philadelphia, shooting just 27.6% from the field in his first quarters. But the urgency of the moment was apparent right away on Sunday. Tatum had 11 points in the first frame, and then improved upon that in the second (14) and third (17). When the dust settled, Tatum had scored 51 points on 17-of-28 shooting.
Not only did he break Curry's Game 7 record, but he did so on 10 fewer field goal attempts. The numbers don't even do Tatum's performance justice. Almost all of his points either came from behind the arc on back-breaking 3's or at the rim, where MVP winner Joel Embiid gave him little trouble. He ultimately became the first player in NBA history to rack up 50 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in a series-clinching victory.
It was the best playoff performance of Tatum's young career, which is saying quite a bit considering his 2022 run to the NBA Finals. For the second straight season, Tatum saved the Celtics in the second round with a monstrous scoring performance. Last year, it came in Game 6 on the road against the Milwaukee Bucks. His 46 points in that game were enough to force the series back to Boston for a Game 7, in which the Celtics trounced the Bucks by 28 points to get to the Eastern Conference finals. Now the Celtics are heading back there for a second straight season.