Luka Doncic has clearly taken notice of the ascension from Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum this season.
The two squared off in a showdown of MVP frontrunners Wednesday night with Tatum getting the better of Doncic, especially on one specific play late in the fourth quarter, as the Celtics pulled out a 125-112 win over the Dallas Mavericks at TD Garden.
The highly anticipated matchup was one both Doncic and Tatum looked forward to, and the Mavericks guard thinks so highly of his counterpart that he believes Tatum is more than just in the conversation for the coveted end-of-season award.
“It’s always the best,” Doncic said of going up against Tatum, per ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. “He’s an amazing player. He’s top 10, in the MVP (conversation) … he’s shown he’s not a future face of the league, but he already is, and he’s an amazing player and it’s always fun to play with those kind of guys.”
The respect is definitely mutual between the two superstars.
“One of the best players in the league,” Tatum said, per MassLive Souichi Terada. “Special talent and somebody I respect. Just like competing against a guy like that.”
Tatum and Doncic definitely put on a show with the cornerstone piece of the Celtics pouring in 37 points with 13 rebounds, five assists and two blocks. Doncic did his part as well, amassing 42 points on 17-for-28 shooting to go along with nine assists and eight rebounds.
Tatum came into the contest hampered with a left ankle sprain, but according to Jaylen Brown, there was no plans for Tatum to sit out and miss his chance to prove his worth against another of the game’s elite talents.
“He was going to play,” Brown said with a smile, per NBC Sports Boston. “He was playing. He knew who he was matched up with. He had that game circled. Don’t let him fool ya’ll. He was playing the whole time.”