The game of the season was just played at TD Garden, and you know who came out on top.
Jayson Tatum and his crew took down arguably the most talented team in the NBA Thursday night during the NBA’s finale before the All-Star break. Tatum led all scorers with 39 points and spearheaded Boston’s push toward the winner’s circle during a double-overtime thriller.
Tatum scored nearly every bucket for Boston that was of absolute necessity. The final came as a dagger during double-overtime.
Landry Shamet had just forced an ill-advised shot in transition that was blocked by Grant Williams. The Celtics led by two as they took the ball in the opposite direction and approached the the two-minute mark. This was their chance to make it a two-possession game.
And they did. Tatum did.
Tatum caught a pass near midcourt from Grant Williams and waved his teammates off. He wanted to go at his defender, Landry Shamet, just as he had for much of the night.
Boston’s budding superstar did Shamet dirty yet again on this play. He slowly approached Shamed with a dribble, causing Shamet to back up, and then hit Shamet with a nasty crossover from right to left. Tatum had an open jumper from 20 feet after that move, but instead of shooting, he continued to do work.
As Shamet attempted to recover, Tatum drove hard with his left hand and beat Shamet yet again – for the second time in two seconds – off the dribble. He rose up into the air and was greeted by Montrezl Harrell’s 240-pound body, which couldn’t prevent Tatum from dropping in a layup in with 2:01 left on the clock.
LA immediately called for a timeout as Tatum flexed, screamed and celebrated his final bucket of the night – a bucket that gave Boston a 134-130 lead and which felt like the final dagger in the coffin for the Clippers.
Boston never let LA have possession of the ball with a chance to tie or take a lead from that point on. Gordon Hayward prevented that from happening with his seven straight points for the C’s, including a clutch 3-pointer just 25 seconds after Tatum’s driving layup.
This was a statement win for Boston, and it was a statement performance by Tatum. The Celtics downed the team many consider to be the title favorite, and Tatum moved himself right into the MVP conversation with a performance for the ages.
Kawhi Leonard might be the best basketball player in the world. Jayson Tatum outperformed him by a landslide Thursday night in front of a national audience.
What’s that say about Boston’s 21-year-old wing, who this Sunday will be making his first appearance in the NBA All-Star game?
You know what it says: that Tatum is making his way toward that conversation as well.
Tatum was nothing short of magnificent against the Clippers while scoring a game-high 39 points on 14-for-23 shooting. That’s a 60.9-percent conversion rate, which included a 5-for-10 performance from long distance.
What stood out most in this game was that Tatum was at his best when it mattered most. He scored seven points on 3-for-4 shooting during the fourth quarter, eight points on 2-for-3 shooting during the first overtime, and the two most important points of the second overtime.
Tatum neared a double-double thanks to the nine rebounds he hauled in, which trailed only Gordon Hayward’s 13 on the Celtics. He also contributed one assist, one steal and one blocked shot on the night.
What also must not be ignored is the defense Tatum played against Leonard. He is the player who forced Leonard into a critical miss on an isolation play with 40 seconds left in overtime. He is the player who forced Leonard into a critical miss on a 3-pointer midway through the second overtime.
Reminder: that was against arguably the best player in the entire world, and while Tatum was scoring at a high volume in crunch time at the other end of the court.
If Tatum’s coming out party was during the playoff run of his rookie season, this was his noisy arrival into the MVP conversation.
He's here to stay.
Box Score Nuggets
- Jayson Tatum led all scorers with 39 points.
- Lou Williams came off the bench to lead LA in scoring with 35 points.
- Gordon Hayward scored 21 points and grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds.
- Montrezl Harrell also grabbed 13 boards for LA.
- Marcus Smart scored 31 points on 10-for-20 shooting.
- LA outscored Boston 62-48 in the paint, but Boston made seven more 3-pointers (18 to 11).
- Six Clippers blocked at least one shot, while HArrell blocked three.
- Kawhi Leonard scored 28 points on 10-for-27 shooting.
- LA actually made one more shot than Boston, 46 to 45.
- Both teams made at least 30 free throws. The C's made 33, while LA made 30.
Quote of the Night
Yeah, I got a little excited.
Jayson Tatum on his emotional reaction after a basket in double-overtime