Tatum Rises Up Against Loaded Lakers, Leads C’s to Dominant Win

BOSTON – While playing against six potential future Hall-of-Famers Friday night, Jayson Tatum was far and away the most dominant player on the court.

And the most dominant player on the court led his Boston Celtics to an authoritative, 130-108 win over their archrival Los Angeles Lakers inside TD Garden.

With game-highs in points (37), rebounds (11), and steals (three), Tatum was no match for the likes of LeBron James (23 points, six rebounds), Anthony Davis (31 points, six rebounds), Russell Westbrook (12 points six assists), Carmelo Anthony (13 points, four rebounds), Dwight Howard (seven points, four rebounds), or Rajon Rondo (zero points, two assists).

To stand above such talent, while leading his team to a commanding victory, felt pretty damn good, especially after climbing out of a 14-point hole in the first quarter.

“We just regrouped,” Tatum said of himself and his teammates, who outscored LA 112-76 in the final 27 minutes of action. “Giving up 38 points in the first quarter is something that we never want to do but it’s basketball and things happen, so you can’t control everything. But how you respond kinda just shows your character.”

Tatum showcased his character by rising to the occasion against top-notch talent like he so often does.

Playing against the best players in the league tends to bring out the best player in Jayson Tatum, as this wasn’t the first time he stepped up against James and the Lakers, and surely won’t be his last.

That’s because he has the confidence to not only feel as though he can compete among elite talent, but to also feel as though he is the most elite talent whenever he steps on the floor.

Tatum began to form such belief in himself two seasons ago when he was selected to his first All-Star team at the age of 21.

“When I made my first All-Star game and I was in the locker room with LeBron, KD (Kevin Durant), (James) Harden, Kawhi (Leonard), I think that was the first time in my career that I felt like I belonged in the room,” Tatum said. “Obviously those guys have accomplished so much more and have played longer and things like that, but I was in the locker room with them, I was on that team. And I think ever since then, I’ve taken that approach of, I belong in that locker room from now on.

“Whether anybody else believes it, I always tell myself when I get on the floor that I’m the best player.”

It’s one thing to think that way, but Tatum backed up those words by also playing that way.

After scoring just three points in the first quarter and watching the Lakers get off to a 38-30 start, Tatum shifted into another gear. He went on to score 34 points in the final three quarters, during which Davis and James scored only 30 combined. However, the 6-foot-9 wing didn't do it alone, as he got some help from Marcus Smart (season-high 22 points), Dennis Schroder (21 points), Al Horford (18 points), and Josh Richardson (15 points).

For Tatum, the coolest part of the night was getting to put on a show right in front of two Celtics Legends in Paul Pierce and Bill Russell, who traveled across the country to sit courtside for the marquee matchup.

“It’s a surreal moment,” Tatum said of playing in front of the pair of Hall-of-Famers. “Obviously, Bill Russell, I know the impact that he had on the Celtics and the NBA. I didn’t get to see him play, but having somebody like Paul come to the game, it’s someone I have a relationship with. I mean, I remember watching him play and now he’s watching me play. That’s crazy to me.”

Though, it’s not as crazy as a 23-year-old dominating a gym full of future Hall-of-Famers.

Tatum did just that on Friday night, solidifying the fact that he’s known for the past two years: that he belongs among the upper echelon of NBA players, and he can outplay any one of them – or all of them, for that matter – on any given night.

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