Tatum, Boosted by Pierce’s Spirit, Helps Lead Comeback Over Bucks
BOSTON – After enduring a challenging first half against the Milwaukee Bucks Wednesday night, Jayson Tatum came out of the break to discover a positive source of energy that he could feed off of. That energy source was sitting along the center-court sideline at TD Garden and his name was Paul Pierce.
Pierce, who always stuck with the Celtics through thick and thin during his playing days, was no different on this night in his role as a fan. He continued to cheer on his former team as it battled back from a 19-point deficit against the reigning Eastern Conference regular-season champions. Tatum, in particular, seemed to thrive off of that encouragement, as he helped to lead Boston to a 116-105 win.
Tatum shot just 2-of-10 during the first half, but he came alive in the third frame to shoot 4-of-6 from the field, including a perfect 3-of-3 from long range. With each shot the 21-year-old wing made, Pierce became more animated on the sideline. He even stepped onto the court to give Tatum a high five near the end of the third quarter just after Tatum had knocked down back-to-back 3s to give Boston its first lead since the opening minutes of the matchup.
“It was crazy,” Tatum said of Pierce’s encouragement after the game. “Every time he comes to a game, he always gives us energy. I talked to him before the game, and just to see someone like him standing up, yelling, cheering.”
Tatum’s effort was somewhat reminiscent of the performances that Pierce used to put on at TD Garden. There were many instances in which Pierce would struggle early on and then come on strong in the end, just like Tatum, who scored 20 of his 25 points during the second half, did Wednesday night.
There aren’t many players who can mentally turn things around and bounce back mid-game like that, but that’s what separates the men from the boys in this league.
“It was really good to see to him get going,” said Gordon Hayward, who also had a strong second half to finish with 21 points. “It was good to see him bounce back. It’s a sign of a mature player, to be able to have a tough first half and bounce back in the second. He did that and hit such huge shots down the stretch.”
“Those 3’s were huge,” added Kemba Walker, who finished with a game-high 32 points for the second straight game. “We count on him. He’s, what, third year? But we rely heavily on Jayson’s offense.”
Tatum is fully aware of how much his teammates rely on his offensive production, and that, too, helped to get him going in the second half.
“[I knew] that I needed to play better,” he said. “The game’s never over. We’ve been down before. We know what it takes to come back. So just knowing I had to do more and be better.”
Of course, it also helped Tatum to have a superfan like Pierce cheering him on from the sideline, believing in his ability to help lead a comeback. Largely thanks to The Truth's encouragement, Tatum was able to dig deep, bounce back and help guide his Celtics to a massive comeback win over one of the best teams in the league.