Apr 10, 2021 1:19 AM ET
Imagine of all of the great players who have donned a Celtics uniform. Now imagine the fact that two of them have ever scored more points during a regular-season game than 23-year-old Jayson Tatum scored Friday night.
Tatum was an absolute megastar Friday night who led the Celtics to an overtime victory by dropping a career-best 53 points on the Minnesota Timberwolves. From tip to buzzer, he was determined, he was efficient, and he was downright unstoppable.
As Brad Stevens concisely summed it up, “Tatum was super-special tonight.”
That he was, as the dynamic wing became the youngest player in Celtics history to reach the 50-point mark while also notching the third-highest point total by a Celtics player during a regular-season game. His 53 points trail only Larry Bird’s 60 and Kevin McHale’s 56 in the franchise’s regular-season history.
Asked after the game of being mentioned in the same breath as Bird in particular, Tatum seemed to be taken aback.
“It’s kinda hard to kinda put into words,” he responded. “Anytime you’re mentioned in any category with someone like that, one of the greatest players ever, is an honor.”
The way things are going, someday it will be an honor for future players to be mentioned in the same breath as Tatum. He’s doing things that suggest he could one day also become one of the greatest players to ever lace them up.
Tatum just turned 23 less than five weeks ago, yet he has already logged a 53-point double-double. For comparison’s purposes, Bird, who came into the league at age 23, did not score 53 points in a game until he was 26 years old, and he did not notch a 50-point double-double until he was 29 years old.
we’re talking about.
. An all-timer. Tatum is doing Bird things at a much younger age than Bird himself ever did them.
Let that sink in.
This was a performance for the ages, and that’s not only because of Tatum’s gaudy numbers. It’s also because of how he compiled those gaudy numbers.
Tatum’s efficiency and ability to read the game were nothing short of elite, megastar status. He didn’t need a million shot attempts to score because he capitalized on the limited ones he took, and he earned a career-best 16 trips to the free-throw line in the process. Tatum shot 16-for-24 from the field – good for 64 percent – while connecting on 15 of his free throw attempts. His shot profile was idyllic, as 20 of his 24 shot attempts were attempted from either inside the paint or from beyond the 3-point arc.
“He’s grown in his ability to seek great shots or seek higher-efficiency shots throughout this season,” Stevens commented after the win. “He missed a couple of really tough ones there at the end of the fourth, but for the most part, I thought he either got to the rim or drew fouls or shot the 3.”
Even those tough misses Stevens referenced were good decisions. Tatum wasn’t forcing things to push his point total up. He was just letting the game come to him while making the correct read, even during crunch time as Minnesota attempted to take the ball out of his hands.
“He was making all the right plays down the stretch,” teammate Marcus Smart said in the aftermath of Tatum’s performance. “When you’ve got a player of his caliber that can do those type of things, it’s fun to watch, it’s fun to be a part of, especially when he’s making those right plays.”
It’s certainly fun for the Celtics and their fan base. For the opponent? Not so much. Minnesota is just the latest team to suffer at the hands of Tatum’s burgeoning greatness.
For all of the incredible performances the young wing has logged during his young career, this one is the cream of the crop. This one was historic, and he recognizes that fact.
“Scoring 50 is a big thing in this league, and especially at this age,” Tatum, relaxed and humble as always, stated. “So it’ll be a night I always remember, my first 50-point game.”
Take note of Tatum’s word choice there: “my
50-point game.” That comment is right in line with the quiet confidence with which he lives his life.
Friday night might have been his first 50-point game, but he’s not planning on it being his last.