With Kyrie Irving out of the lineup Tuesday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Boston Celtics needed someone to step up and fill the role of attacking the basket and fighting for hard-earned points.
That job, unsurprisingly, landed with Jayson Tatum.
Tatum, who started at the four with Marcus Morris Sr. out, nailed down 25 points in a 103-96 win on the road. The 20-year-old was particularly impressive in fighting to the basket and earning his way to the free-throw line. Tatum went 12-for-12 from the line, a career-high, and that effort did not go unnoticed by his coach.
Tatum has proven in the past he can be relied on as a primary scorer in Irving’s absence, but if he can couple the aggressiveness around the rim he showed Tuesday with a full-strength lineup, that could go a long way as the Celtics continue to surge.
— This was Gordon Hayward’s first game back at the Quicken Loans Arena since his devastating injury in last season’s opener.
Hayward put in one of his more complete performances Tuesday night, tallying 18 points on 9-of-14 shots with six rebounds, five assists and a block off the bench.
“Just reading what they give to me, trying to be aggressive,” Hayward said on NBC Sports Boston’s post-game coverage. “Tonight, I got some mid-range shots rolling so that was good.”
Hayward also tallied 18 points in the C’s last contest against the Cavs in Boston on Jan. 23.
“I thought he was great tonight,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters after the game, as seen on NBC Sports Boston. “On both ends of the court, I thought his offensive playing making — his passing — was as good as his scoring.”
— Marcus Smart was 4-for-5 from beyond the arc in a 17-point effort. The Celtics guard helped close the deal in the fourth quarter with a late trey.
Smart now is shooting 37.7 percent from 3-point land.
— Without Morris and Aron Baynes, the Celtics lost the rebound battle 47-42, and allowed the Cavs to haul in 15 offensive rebounds.
— Boston is averaging 30.6 assists over its five-game winning streak. The team posted 29 helpers Tuesday night, as Al Horford led the way with eight.
— The Celtics now are 13-13 on the road, with 12 of those victories coming against teams below .500.
— Boston is 2-12 in its 14 road games without Kyrie Irving. Before Tuesday, the last road win came last May in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Thumbnail photo via David Richard/USA TODAY Sports Images