From start to finish, Jayson Tatum couldn’t be contained in the Boston Celtics‘ 126-120 win over the Brooklyn Nets Sunday afternoon. He racked up 54 points en route to Boston’s third straight win, marking his fourth 50-point game in his young career, and tying him with Larry Bird for the most 50-point games in Celtics history.
“This is what I dreamed about as a kid, and I waited my whole life to get to,” Tatum said after the game. “Obviously I have a long way to go, a long way to what I’m trying to accomplish, but [I’m] staying in the moment and just enjoying it. Having fun doing what I love everyday.”
Tatum was getting buckets in a variety of ways, discarding every defender Brooklyn placed in front of him, and making some incredibly difficult shots in the process, too. Like this tough take he somehow gets to fall after the Nets sent a double team to try and get the ball out of his hands:.
But instead of passing it away, Tatum navigated his way through three Nets defenders with relative ease on his way to the basket to put him up to 49 points with just under three minutes left in the game. Most of the afternoon went like that for Tatum, as he got downhill with little resistance, worked in his midrange game and drained eight (!!!) 3s while shooting an efficient 53.3 percent from both the field and long range.
The Nets had their own star cooking Sunday, as Kevin Durant put up 37 points along with eight assists and six rebounds. He also became the 23rd player in league history to join the 25,000-point club.
Tatum’s standout performance led the Celtics in a tightly-contested game, but Boston put together a really balanced performance as all five starters scored in double figures, with Jaylen Brown dropping 21 points in his return from a one-game absence due to a sprained ankle.
The win pulls the Celtics to within a game of the Milwaukee Bucks and Chicago Bulls who are currently tied for third in the Eastern Conference. But more importantly, this win against a struggling Nets team is just the latest example in showing how far the Celtics have come from the beginning of the season where they started 18-21. Now, Boston improves to 39-27 and is a far cry from the team where players were calling each other out after disappointing losses.
The playoffs in the East are going to be incredibly difficult with the Celtics playing like this. If Tatum’s performing at this level, and Boston’s defense continues to put pressure on opposing teams, then they’re going to be a hard out for anyone in the first round.