Tatum’s 3-Point Barrage Leads C's Past Philly in Game 2
At age 22, Jayson Tatum has already reached the point in his career where it is expected of him to take over games on a consistent basis. So far, during the 2020 Playoffs, the Celtics wing is 2-for-2. And he appears to only be warming up.
Tatum put forth the best offensive effort of his playoff career Monday night when he poured in 32 points to lead Boston to a 109-101 Game 1 win over Philadelphia. On Wednesday night, he took his game to an even higher level, as he shot 8-for-12 from 3-point range en route to a new postseason career-high of 33 points, which helped to carry Boston to a 128-101 win and a 2-0 series lead.
Earlier in the season, Tatum’s peers may have been astounded by such performances. But by now, nothing surprises them when it comes to Tatum’s on-court domination.
“We expect it now, for sure,” said teammate Kemba Walker, who tallied 22 points of his own Wednesday night. “He’s a superstar. He's a superstar. He’s been showing it night-in and night-out. He just makes the right reads, man. He’s a special talent.”
Tatum surpassed some other special talents Wednesday night, as he became the youngest player in NBA history to make at least eight 3-pointers in a playoff game. Previously, the only two players who had made more than five triples at age 22 or younger during a postseason contest were LeBron James (seven) and Kobe Bryant (six).
In fact, Tatum actually made three more 3-pointers than the 76ers did as an entire team while taking nine fewer attempts. And these weren’t just wide-open long balls from Tatum; Philadelphia’s defense was making things as tough on him as possible, whether they were blitzing or double-teaming him.
Yet, nothing phased the youngster. He canned step-back iso triples, he made challenging shots off the dribble, and he even pulled up for a logo-distance bank-shot to beat the shot-clock near the end of the first quarter.
Tatum’s ascension has become so indescribable that even outgoing veteran center Enes Kanter was left (almost) speechless when asked about it post-game.
“Jayson Tatum is unbelievable, man. I have no words for him,” said Kanter, who recorded 10 points and nine rebounds during 22 minutes of action off the bench. “This guy is just bringing so much, not just on the court, but bringing so much pure leadership. Every time he’s out there, he’s having fun, he’s making himself better and he’s making everybody else better around him. That’s what makes him really special.”
What also makes Tatum special is his own self-assurance. It’s a lot to ask out of a 22-year-old to help lead a team to playoff success, but he seems to love taking on such a responsibility. Rather than giving into the pressure of the moment, he thrives off of it.
“I have the utmost confidence in myself and my teammates, and I know it's reciprocated,” Tatum said. “I try to figure out when I need to be more aggressive and when I need to make the right pass.
“I think the most important thing is I want to be that guy; I want to be able to make the big plays, whether it's scoring or making the right pass because I'm drawing attention. I think that's the first step: wanting to be that person.”
Not only does Tatum want to be that person, but both he and his teammates expect him to be that person. And with him leading the charge, Boston now finds itself just two wins away from a trip to the second round.