Tatum Sets Celtics Scoring Record in LA

On Feb. 23, 2020, Jayson Tatum had such an impactful performance against the Los Angeles Lakers that LeBron James felt the need to send out a warning to the rest of the NBA.

After being on the opposing end of Tatum’s then-career-high 41-point effort, James posted on Instagram a photo of himself standing to the right of the 21-year-old rising star at the STAPLES Center scorer’s table with a caption that read, “That boi to the left of me is an ABSOLUTE PROBLEM!!”

Three seasons later, Tatum is more of a problem than ever, and that especially rings true for James and the Lakers.

On Tuesday night, JT dropped yet another 40-piece in Los Angeles, this time finishing with 44 in the scoring column, outscoring James by 11 in a 122-118 overtime win. It marked the highest individual scoring effort on the road against the Lakers in franchise history and was just two points shy of Ed Macauley’s team record of 46 against the Purple and Gold, which was set on March 6, 1953, at Boston Garden.

It was also the fifth straight game in which Tatum scored 30-plus points against Los Angeles, a span during which he’s averaged 37.2 points while shooting 56.5 percent from the field and 55.6 percent from 3-point range.

The problem that Tatum created for the Lakers on Tuesday night wasn’t just the volume of his scoring, but also the timeliness of his buckets. He scored seven of Boston’s last 12 points in the final 3:08 of regulation, helping the Celtics overcome a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit. His most impressive bucket was the one that tied the game – a turnaround step-back jumper over James – with 17.8 seconds remaining, sending it into overtime.

Prior to that basket, the Lakers had a chance to go up by four and possibly ice the game. Anthony Davis went to the free-throw line with 28 seconds remaining, but he clanked both of his attempts off the rim. The rebound from the second miss found Tatum’s hands and, rather than use one of their remaining timeouts, Celtics interim head coach Joe Mazzulla let his leading scorer dribble straight up-court to save the night.

“It was better for us to push it, not for us to call a timeout and allow them to set up their defense,” said Tatum, who also grabbed nine rebounds, dished out six assists, and shot 15-of-29 from the field, 5-of-10 from 3-point range, and 9-of-10 from the free-throw line. “Push the ball and, for me, finding an opportunity, finding space, and just getting to my spot. That’s what I did. I tried not to settle. That’s something I work on all the time, get to the mid-range, game on the line, and a shot I’m very comfortable with.”

Added Mazzulla, “I saw a great player make a great shot, and a guy that wanted the moment. I thought that sparked us for overtime, him embracing that moment. Our team fed off of that and our team embraced the moment for the rest of overtime.”

The Lakers scored the first four points of OT, and then the Celtics scored the following 12. Although Tatum only scored two of those points, it was just enough for him to lay claim to a historic achievement in the latest chapter of the greatest rivalry in sports.

Over the years, Tatum has been an absolute problem for the archrival Lakers, and Tuesday night’s effort was his greatest of them all.