Jayson Tatum slams home a dunk against the Dallas Mavericks

Tatum Bolsters MVP Case with Dominant Win over Doncic, Mavs

Marc D'Amico
Team Reporter and Analyst

Jayson Tatum is top-two in the NBA’s MVP race, and he ain’t number two.

Especially after Wednesday night.

Tatum not only went toe-to-toe with Luka Doncic, who entered Wednesday’s matchup as the odds-on favorite to win the award, but he also fueled the Celtics to a blowout victory over the visiting Mavericks. The superstar wing finished with a team-high 37 points to go along with a game-high and season-high 13 rebounds, all while logging a plus-14 in the plus/minus category during a 125-112 victory.

Doncic, meanwhile, was a minus-13 while compiling 42 points, nine assists, eight rebounds and a game-high five turnovers.

This was undoubtedly a statement performance that serves as a significant boost to Tatum’s early-season MVP resumé. While gaudy stats are meaningful – and Tatum sure checks that box off on a nightly basis – they’re even more impressive when they’re accompanied by wins. That is the recipe for a winning MVP award.

Following Wednesday night, Tatum and his Celtics just so happen to own a league-best 14 wins, including a blowout, head-to-head victory over Doncic. You can do the math.

Boston took it to the Mavericks from start to finish thanks in large part to Tatum’s effort. The C’s opened up a 14-point lead during the first quarter that grew to 25 points during the second period as Tatum poured in 16 of his 37 total points during the frame. He almost single-handedly turned this game from competitive into a laugher, as he scored 10 points in less than two minutes, including a stretch during which he drained a 3-pointer over Doncic, then blocked a shot at the rim, then drew a foul in transition that led to three free throws.

That run broke the backs and the spirit of Doncic and the Mavs, and Boston coasted from that point on.

There was one more highlight to be had, however, and it arrived thanks to a one-on-one matchup between the two stars.

With just over two minutes remaining in the game, just moments after Tatum scored his final two points of the night, Doncic took him off the dribble in an attempt to score at the rim. Tatum had none of it, as he trailed Doncic, rose up from behind and swatted the shot away and off the backboard.

In the moment, that play felt like more than just a simple block at the end of an uncompetitive game. It felt symbolic, as if to put an exclamation point at the end of a sentence that read, “I’m the MVP!”

Celtics fans sure agreed with such a notion, as they serenaded their young star with “MVP!” chants throughout the night whenever he stood at the free-throw line.

After the game, Tatum was not ignorant to the importance of the matchup with Doncic. While he didn’t directly acknowledge the MVP race, Tatum was more than willing to admit that this was a game he targeted and wasn’t going to miss, even if he was listed as questionable all day with a left ankle sprain.

Tatum agreed with Jaylen Brown’s statement that Tatum was never going to miss this game, then added some additional context as to why the late-November matchup was a bit more significant than the norm.

“Yeah, I think as a competitor, with matchups like these – against another really good team, against one of the best players in the league, (that’s important),” he said. “And especially when we don’t get to play them that often.”

Tatum then alluded to the fact that Dallas had swept the season series against Boston during each of the last two years. He didn’t want to allow that to happen again.

And he didn’t.

Instead, he led the Celtics to a resounding win on a national stage, all the while leaving no doubt about who the MVP of the league is heading into Thanksgiving.