Jayson Tatum may not be able to find his 50-point performance in the postseason record books, or the regular-season record books for that matter.
But the Celtics star, along with his teammates, certainly won’t have trouble remembering Tatum’s takeover during Boston’s 118-100 victory over the Washington Wizards in the first-ever NBA play-in tournament. Tuesday night’s win earned Boston a trip to the NBA playoffs where Tatum and Co. will take on the star-studded Brooklyn Nets in the first round.
“I just wanted to be aggressive tonight,” Tatum said on a postgame video conference. “We got in the bonus early in a couple of those quarters so once I saw that I was just trying to put the pressure on the defense and the refs.”
Tatum was a perfect 17-for-17 at the free-throw line. He scored 23 of his 50 points in the third quarter to help the Celtics pull away before finishing 14-for-32 from the field with eight rebounds and four assists.
“Jayson was special, man. He was unbelievable,” Kemba Walker, who scored 29 points, said on a postgame video conference. “It ain’t new to me. I’ve been watching this guy put in this kind of work for the last year or two. So I’m here for the ride. It’s fun. It’s always exciting to see him go off the way he go off, so we’re going to need that, throughout the whole run.”
Tristan Thompson added: “For him tonight, he had it rolling. He’s a stud. We know what he can do so he’s got to set the ton early for us.”
Tatum’s outburst led Wizards head coach Scott Brooks to project the 23-year-old will be an MVP in the league very soon.
Tatum said immediately after the game, as seen on TNT’s postgame coverage, that it was really important for the Celtics to come out and play well. He added how Boston obviously knew what was at stake, so to earn a commanding win has him and the rest of the C’s excited.
Head coach Brad Stevens praised Tatum’s aggressive mindset and lead-by-example mentality, as well. It was all the more important without Jaylen Brown and Robert Williams, the latter of whom didn’t play the second half after he re-aggravated his toe injury.
“He was really aggressive early, but he missed a few on (Washington’s Alex Len) as he drove deep. You could tell he was anxious to have a good night,” Stevens said on a postgame video conference. “It was really important to our guys to play well.
“… So I give our guys a ton of credit for that, and Jayson is obviously the leader of it. I saw what he said earlier today. He’s right on. He can lead by not saying a word. He can lead by example, and he can lead the way he did tonight.”
The seventh-seeded Celtics will take on the second-seeded Nets in a first round series beginning Saturday.