addByline("Taylor Snow", "Celtics.com", "taylorcsnow");
On Friday the 13th, the last person you’d want to cross paths with is Jayson.
Not Jason Voorhees, the infamous horror film slasher, but Jayson Tatum, the Boston Celtics’ cold-blooded assassin.
With his team facing playoff elimination in Game 6, the unfazed superstar prowled into Milwaukee and took form as the Bucks’ worst nightmare. Jayson sunk dagger after dagger at Fiserv Forum, erupting for a playoff-high 46 points while leading the Celtics to a 108-95 win to force a series-deciding Game 7 Sunday afternoon back home in Boston.
With a disappointing Game 5 loss still lingering in the back of his head, Jayson went into Friday night's rematch with revenge on his mind.
“It stung losing that game like that,” Jayson recalled of Wednesday night’s 14-point fourth-quarter collapse. “Everybody had a bad taste in their mouth, and I think watching film, learning from it, we were upbeat. We weren’t defeated knowing that we still had an opportunity to save our season and come in here and get a win.”
Tatum did his best impersonation of Jason Voorhees by transforming into Jayson More-threes. He buried 7-of-15 from long-distance, accounting for nearly half of Boston’s 17 triples. He also corralled nine rebounds and dished out four assists. For the Celtics, there was no “fearing the deer” when they had an all-purpose weapon at their disposal.
“No fear. We have a Swiss Army knife on our side, so we’re not worried,” said Marcus Smart, who also turned in a stellar performance with 21 points, five rebounds, and seven assists. “We just have to put ourselves in the right position and give our Swiss Army knife a chance to go do what he does.”
What Jayson did was historic. His scoring output fell just one point shy of Sam Jones’ franchise record for most points while facing elimination. He also joined Jones in becoming the second player in team history to log multiple 45-point playoff games over the course of a career.
Under the circumstances, Jayson knew that he had no time to waste, locking in as soon as the ball was tipped. He scored nine points in each of the first two quarters, 12 more in the third frame, and then went in for the kill with a 16-point fourth quarter.
“I know when I have it going. You feel that rhythm,” he said. “It’s just finding your spots, knowing time and score and the situation of the game, being aggressive, but also making the right play and doing what it takes.”
For Jayson, it took out-dueling Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 44-point, 20-rebound, six-assist performance. It took beating the odds in a hostile environment. It took having the most impactful playoff game of his career in a win-or-go-home scenario.
“It's why he get paid the big bucks,” said Smart. “That's it right there, for moments like that. I was telling him the whole game, 'Just be you, man,' and he was. That's what he gets paid to do. That's what we lean on him to do. We did our jobs in the first half to give him a break while they were doing a good job on him. We stood up and stepped up and took care for him and then he came in and do what he did, who he is, and took that game over in the fourth and brought us all home.”
The sixth game of the ECS was much like the sixth installment of the Friday the 13th franchise, “Jason Lives.” The Bucks had their opportunity to pin Jayson and the Celtics underwater, but he and his team stayed afloat and lived to see another day.