Tatum had 31 points by halftime, which was the most of any half in his career, and finished with 51 on 18 of 28 from the field and 9 of 14 from 3-point land. He also added 10 rebounds and seven assists for good measure, joining Larry Bird as just the second player in Celtics history to have a game with 50 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. The Celtics are now the only team in the league with multiple 50-point scorers this season (Jaylen Brown scored 50 points against the Magic earlier this month).
Right from the opening tip, it was clear that Tatum was feeling good. He ran a perfect pick-and-roll with Rob Williams III, throwing the big man a lob for the Celtics’ first points of the game. Then, he scored himself on three of the next four possessions, and never looked back.
“I know, and everybody know, I haven’t been shooting the ball lately,” Tatum said. “That never discouraged me. My teammates, they believe in me, and it was just a matter of seeing one go in. When you’re in that zone, the basket seem as big this arena. It’s a hell of a feeling.”
Tatum, who said he felt like it was his night after he made a 3-pointer right before halftime, had everything working in this game. His outside shooting was the big story for understandable reasons, but he also made a number of stellar moves to the rim, and was distributing the ball extremely well. The latter aspects are perhaps the most encouraging, because those have been areas of improvements for him.
“That’s a great feeling,” Tatum said. “You hear that at home sometimes. But to hear that on the road, all the Celtics fans how much they travel and support us. We definitely appreciate it.”
Despite the game being played in Washington, Tatum was serenaded with “M-V-P” chants by the large contingent of Celtics fans in the building.
The next step now, for both Tatum and the Celtics, will be building on this performance. We know they can hit these incredible heights, but they do so far too infrequently, which is why they’re stuck in ninth place in the Eastern Conference at 24-24.
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