Kyrie Irving was the headliner in the Boston Celtics’ 110-107 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night, but it was a rookie who played just as valuable of a role in the team’s ninth straight victory.
Jayson Tatum, who the C’s selected third overall in the 2017 NBA draft, scored 21 points, including a clutch 3-point shot in the final minute of the fourth quarter that extended Boston’s lead to 107-103. The confidence and lack of fear in Tatum’s game were evident in this shot.
Tatum was heralded as the most polished offensive player in the 2017 draft class, and that has held true through 11 games this season.
The rookie forward has been shooting very well from the outside, connecting on 18 of 34 shots from 3-point range, including a 3-for-5 mark against the Hawks. He’s also shooting over 80 percent from the foul line and 49.4 from the field overall.
One of the most impressive parts of Tatum’s game so far has been his consistency. He hasn’t played a bad game yet, and he’s scored 10-plus points in nine of 11 contests. He also has five games with eight or more rebounds.
The Celtics need Tatum to play a very valuable role with Gordon Hayward likely out for the season because of an injury. It’s not an easy spot for a rookie, but Tatum’s maturity and confidence at just 19 years old suggests he’s able to shoulder this burden and provide the performances Boston needs.
— Irving scored a season-high 35 points, and he clinched the victory with a clutch 3-point shot late in the fourth quarter and a floater from the foul line in the final 30 seconds.
The superstar guard shot 14-for-22 from the field, including a 3-for-4 mark from 3-point land. He also dished out seven assists and was a plus-7.
His handles also were on fire against the Hawks.
— Irving is playing the best two-way basketball of his career, as this chart below (using stats entering Monday) shows.
— Rebounding has been a major area of improvement for the Celtics this season. It’s no surprise that their success in this area has been at the heart of the nine-game win streak.
— Al Horford played another great game for the C’s. He finished an assist shy of a triple-double, tallying 15 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.
— Hayward could be joining the C’s soon to provide moral support from the bench.
— Boston’s nine-game win streak is its longest since the 2007-08 championship season. The Celtics sit atop the NBA standings with a 9-2 record, which is their best mark to start a season since 2010-11.
Thumbnail photo via Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports Images