Jayson Tatum walks off the court with his finger pointing to the crowd following his epic 50-point performance

Time To Believe: C's Back in Series After Tatum's 50-Point Barrage

Celtics Playoffs presented by Putnam Investments & Arbella Insurance

It's time to believe. And with that, permission has officially been granted to do the following: go ahead and admit that, heading into Friday night’s Game 3, you didn’t think the Boston Celtics had a chance in their series against the Brooklyn Nets.

Now that we got that out of the way, the wagon is officially reopened for all who are interested in jumping back on now that the Celtics have proven that they do, in fact, have a legitimate chance.

That notion is now undeniable following an impressive 125-119 victory during Game 3 that featured a sizzling 50-point performance from 23-year-old superstar Jayson Tatum. Not only did Boston win the game, but it did so while Brooklyn’s Big Three combined to score 76 points on 50.8 percent shooting.

So it’s not as if this was a fluke victory on an off night for the opposing stars, and it’s not as if the Celtics haven’t been competitive throughout the series. In fact, Boston led for the high majority of Game 3 and has how won four of the six halves played in the series.

The Celtics understand that such facts might come as hard to believe, but they’re showing that this task might not be quite as impossible as some might have previously believed.

“We’re going up against a juggernaut of a team,” Marcus Smart admitted after Friday’s victory. “Like I said before, the world knows it. We know it. It ain’t gonna be easy.”

He continued, “So you can’t lay down. You can’t take a step back. You have to press forward, and you have to be able to fight back. And that’s what we did tonight.”

Boston had every opportunity to lay down early in the contest after it fell behind 19-4. However, Brad Stevens called a timeout at that juncture and delivered a message that led to a game-changing turnaround.

“I told the team at that timeout: our look was good,” Stevens recalled of the stoppage in play. “Like, the start of that game was not the same as the start of Game 2. We were generating good looks on one end. They were hitting ridiculous shots on the other. We looked like we were engaged in each other. We looked like we were going to be able to chip away and get back at that lead.”

Stevens saw the future, as his Celtics did exactly that. They immediately responded following the timeout by scoring six straight points, and by the end of the first quarter they had gained a 33-32 advantage.

That’s when everyone in the building started to believe, and that’s when Tatum kicked it into overdrive.

After opening the game with 13 points during the first quarter, Tatum went on to score eight during the second quarter, 19 during the third quarter, and another 10 during the fourth quarter. His incredible performance, combined with inspired efforts from Tristan Thompson (19 points, 13 rebounds) and Marcus Smart (23 points, six assists), held off the Nets despite a barrage of second-half points from Brooklyn’s Big Three.

Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving combined to score 60 second-half points on 50.8 percent shooting, yet Boston maintained a lead for all but 25 seconds of those final two quarters. Smart said the C’s were able to accomplish that feat thanks to the mindset they carried through the opening minutes of the game.

“Things weren’t going our way early, and usually we let that snowball,” he commented. “Tonight we just tried to stay as positive as we could and keep our foot on the gas pedal. No matter what the outcome was, we had to be willing to fight, sacrifice our body, and it’s gonna take everybody on the court and everybody that came in.”

The historic performance by Tatum didn’t hurt, either.

Per Stathead, Tatum became the first player in modern history (since 1983) to record at least 50 points, seven assists, six rebounds and two steals during a postseason win. No one – not MJ, not LeBron, not Kobe, not anyone in modern history – had done what Tatum did Friday night, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

As Tatum himself said after the game, “Sometimes nights like these are needed.”

In this instance, Tatum’s 50-point performance was the magic Boston needed to get back into this series and to show everyone who was watching that it can, in fact, compete with the vaunted Nets. Now, Boston has another ace up its sleeve for Sunday’s Game 4: its first near-capacity crowd in nearly 15 months.

“I’m just excited for Sunday,” Thompson, who has yet to play a home game in front of a packed TD Garden, said of the expected crowd. “We’re gonna need the fans rockin’. We need to blow this [expletive] roof off, that’s what we need. We need that energy. We need to have it rock so loud that if the coach calls timeout the refs can’t even hear. We need it to be that kind of intensity, almost like a Game 7.”

That may have been a futile request had the Celtics not taken home Game 3. Now that they have? All bets are off.

Celtics Nation is now fueled with belief. Add that to a 7 p.m., Sunday-night tip-off on a holiday weekend, and, well… permission has been granted to blow the roof off.


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