Top 10 Moments from the 2020-21 Season
The 2020-21 campaign didn’t end the way in which the Boston Celtics would have hoped, but there were still many noteworthy achievements that occurred along the way. We’ve sifted through those feats and picked out 10 of the most fulfilling moments, starting all the way back at Game 1 of the regular season...
Tatum’s Game-Winner on Opening Night vs. MIL
Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics opened the 2020-21 season on Dec. 23 with an emphatic bang inside TD Garden. The star wing delivered 30 points, including the game-winning 3-pointer on a step-back shot over two-time reigning MVP and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Giannis Antetokounmpo, giving the Celtics a 122-121 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
JAYSON TATUM pic.twitter.com/tssjdSZf2P— Boston Celtics (@celtics) December 24, 2020
Pritchard’s Game-Winning Put-Back at MIA
Two weeks after Jayson Tatum delivered in game-winning fashion, rookie Payton Pritchard wanted in on the action. The 6-foot-1 point guard crashed the glass during the final seconds of a Jan. 6 matchup with the Miami Heat to tip in a Marcus Smart miss for the game-winning points with 0.2 seconds left. The miraculous tip-in gave Boston a 107-105 revenge victory over the team that had knocked them out of the Eastern Conference Finals three-and-a-half months prior.
Brown, Tatum Soar at 70th NBA All-Star Game
On Feb. 23, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum became just the second pair of Celtics teammates to both receive All-Star honors before their 25th birthday, as Brown was selected to his first All-Star Game while Tatum earned his second consecutive bid. During the March 7 exhibition in Atlanta, the duo did not disappoint, combining for 43 points on 17-of-28 shooting to go along with nine rebounds, seven assists and six steals, as Brown and Team LeBron beat Tatum and Team Durant, 170-150. Brown and Tatum also competed in the coveted 3-Point Contest which took place just prior to main event. Tatum finished third among the six participants behind winner Stephen Curry and runner-up Mike Conley.
Rob Williams’ Historic Stat-Stuffing Effort at HOU
Robert Williams had a breakout third season for the Celtics, and his best performance came March 14 in the form of a historic, 16-point, 13-rebound, three-block effort during a 134-107 win over the Houston Rockets. What made the performance so unique was that Williams became just the 10th player in NBA history to log at least 16 points and 13 rebounds in a game while playing fewer than 20 minutes. Equally as impressive, he also became just the second Celtics player ever to produce at least that many points and rebounds while shooting 100 percent from the field, joining Ed Pinckney, who accomplished the feat March 29, 1991.
Celtics Spirits Lifted as Fans Return to TD Garden
March 29 was one of the most cherished days of the year for the Celtics, as it marked the long-awaited return of their fans to TD Garden. The last time Celtics Nation had stepped through the doors of their home arena was March 8, 2020, and they were finally able to do so again 386 days later as the stands opened to 12 percent capacity for a matchup against the New Orleans Pelicans. Boston wound up losing that game, 115-109, but the team’s spirits were still lifted by having the crowd behind them. Brad Stevens said after the game, “I appreciate them being here because, for those of us that have coached and played basketball games in front of no one, it's been fun, it's been basketball, but hard to feel normal or right. So tonight felt a bit more normal or right.”
THE BEST FANS ARE BACK HOME pic.twitter.com/oBx4ZOjsWp— Boston Celtics (@celtics) March 29, 2021
Brown’s Historically Efficient Effort at LAL
Brad Stevens had one word to describe Jaylen Brown’s April 15 performance against the Los Angeles Lakers: “Unreal.” So unreal that it made Celtics history. Brown erupted for 40 points while shooting a staggering 17-of-20 from the field, as he led the Celtics to a 121-113 victory at STAPLES Center. In doing so, he became the first player in franchise history to log a 40-point game while shooting at least 85 percent from the field.
First player with 40 points on 85% shooting in franchise history pic.twitter.com/dCHfa6pUmC— Boston Celtics (@celtics) April 16, 2021
Tatum Outduels Curry in Epic Primetime Battle
Jayson Tatum and Steph Curry dazzled in the primetime spotlight on April 17, giving us one of the greatest individual battles of the NBA season. The pair of All-Stars traded buckets from start to finish, as Curry scored 47 points to Tatum's 44. Although Curry had the slight scoring edge, Tatum had the advantage in just about every other category, including the all-important win/loss column, as his Celtics came away with a 119-114 victory.
Tatum shot 16-of-25 from the field, 5-of-9 from 3-point range, and 7-of-8 from the free-throw line. Curry shot 15-of-27 from the field, 11-of-19 from deep, and 6-of-8 from the charity stripe, meaning Tatum had the edge in shooting efficiency. They both also dished out three assists, but Tatum had a 10-7 rebounding lead, a 2-1 steals advantage, and committed just two turnovers to Curry's five. Tatum also was a plus-12 in the five-point win, while Curry was a minus-seven. All in all, it was one of the greatest individual battles of the NBA season, as two elite scorers gave us a show to remember.
Tatum’s 60-Point Effort Leads C’s to Record 32-Point Comeback Win
On April 9, Jayson Tatum became the youngest Celtic to score 50 points in a game, as he tallied 53 in a 145-136 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Exactly three weeks later, he smashed that career-high with a franchise record-tying 60 points to help lead the Celtics to a miraculous 143-140, come-from-behind overtime victory over the visiting San Antonio Spurs. Boston trailed by as many as 32 points during the first half and by 29 points at halftime, marking the second-largest halftime deficit overcome in NBA history. Tatum scored 31 points during the fourth quarter and overtime and tied Larry Bird’s franchise mark with two makes from the free-throw line late in the extra period to seal the win. Throughout the night, he shot 20-of-37 from the field, 5-of-7 from beyond the 3-point arc, and 15-for-17 from the free-throw line, as he became the second-youngest player in NBA history to score 60 points in a game (23 years, 58 days) after Devin Booker (20 years, 145 days).
Marcus Smart Wins Inaugural Tommy Award
The Celtics and NBC Sports Boston commemorated the late legend Tommy Heinsohn throughout the afternoon of May 9, giving Celtics Nation the opportunity to celebrate the incomparable legacy that the former player, coach, and broadcaster established over a 65-year span with the organization. As part of the celebration, the Celtics handed out the inaugural “Tommy Award” to the player who “best embodied attributes of hustle, effort, and pride throughout the season.” It was only fitting that Marcus Smart – the heart and soul of the current Celtics roster and a favorite of Heinsohn – would win it. Smart called it an honor to earn the plaque, noting how “Tommy has meant a lot to this city, to this organization.” And Smart will surely be one of the players who helps to carry on Heinsohn’s legacy through his hustle, effort and pride.
Tatum’s Back-to-Back Postseason 50-Pieces at TD Garden
Those two 50-plus-point efforts that Jayson Tatum logged toward the end of the regular season weren’t an anomaly; they were just a warmup for the postseason. He dropped another 50 during each of Boston’s first two postseason home games, starting with its play-in contest against the Washington Wizards May 18. This was supposed to be a heated battle between Tatum and childhood friend Bradley Beal, but it turned into a lopsided domination, as JT more than doubled Beal’s scoring effort of 22. Tatum nearly matched Beal's scoring total from the free-throw line alone, as he shot a career-best 17-of-17 to help lead Boston to a 118-100 win while also clinching the East’s seventh seed.
The Celtics would match up against the explosive Brooklyn Nets in the first round and dropped the first two games of the series at Barclays Center. But when the series shifted to Tatum’s house for Game 3 on May 28, he took over by pouring in 50 points and leading Boston to a 125-119 win. Tatum also reached a significant career milestone in this game, as his 44th point of the night made him the third-youngest player (23 years, 86 days old) in NBA history to reach 1,000 career postseason points after Kobe Bryant (22 years, 263 days) and Tony Parker (23 years, 23 days). It also made him the league leader in 50-point games for the 2020-21 season, as he finished one such effort ahead of regular-season scoring champion Stephen Curry.