The Boston Celtics were undermanned entering their Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee against the Charlotte Hornets, necessitating a takeover from superstar Jayson Tatum.
He was happy to oblige.
Tatum dropped 51 points on the Hornets, finishing 15-for-23 from the field, including 7-for-12 from beyond the arc, and added nine rebounds and five assists in the Celtics’ 130-118 victory at Spectrum Center. The 24-year-old also went a perfect 14-for-14 from the charity stripe, hamstringing Charlotte on the defensive end.
Though a performance of this caliber isn’t new for Tatum, Boston’s star believed it was long overdue.
“It’s been a while since I scored 50, so I needed that one,” Tatum told NBC Sports Boston’s Abby Chin, per the network’s postgame coverage. “Honestly, (I didn’t feel in the zone) not until probably like the fourth quarter. Maybe in the middle of the third. Early I feel like I missed a lot of shots I felt like I should make, but I did what I had to do.”
Tatum last scored 50 points on March 6, 2022, against the Brooklyn Nets, finishing with 54 points. He came close to the 50-point mark earlier this season against the Miami Heat but fell one point shy.
Tatum told reporters he received a text after the Heat game from former NBA guard Jamal Crawford, who told him no one would remember a 49-point game and to go for 50 the next time he had a chance, per NBC Sports Boston’s broadcast.
Though Boston was clearly the better team Monday, Charlotte’s shot-making allowed the Hornets to cut the lead to two points in the second half. That is when Tatum took over, scoring 18 points in the final quarter to lead the Celtics’ runaway effort.
The Celtics will head back home to host the Golden State Warriors in an NBA Finals rematch on Thursday night. Tipoff from TD Garden is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET.