Jason Tatum's 50-Point Eruption Propels the Boston Celtics Into the Playoffs

Illustration for article titled Jason Tatum's 50-Point Eruption Propels the Boston Celtics Into the Playoffs
Photo: Maddie Meyer (Getty Images)

If you were in the mood for competitive basketball, the first night of the NBA’s play-in tournament didn’t exactly satiate your appetite. But if you wanted to see a young player show up on the biggest stage and solidify his status as a premier performer and NBA superstar, then Jason Tatum granted your wish.

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On Tuesday night, the St. Louis native dropped 50 points to propel his Boston Celtics past the Washington Wizards with a glorious 118-100 victory. The win secured Boston’s entry into the playoffs and gave them the seventh seed, where they’ll face off against their impending doom the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the playoffs.

“It didn’t matter who was in front of him,” said Bradley Beal, whose Wizards were last seen crying in the car. “That is something I have been trying to tell his ass for years. It’s tough when you guard him. He’s 6-9, he can get his shot off, he’s strong and can shoot the ball.”

He continued, “He’s a special talent, and I have been saying that since he was in diapers. It doesn’t surprise me.”

Tatum’s 50-point clinic was more than just points on the board, he contributed in all areas; finishing with eight boards, two blocks, four assists, and a 23-point eruption in the third quarter. He was also perfect from the free-throw line, finishing 17-17.

So while the rest of us might consider him a superstar, does Tatum believe he’s blossomed into that caliber of player?

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“I don’t really get caught up in those who think I’m a superstar and those that don’t,” he told reporters. “What does that really mean? I know that my teammates, I’ve earned their respect. I’ve earned the respect of the guys I’ve played against and the coaches. I believe in myself, and that’s all that matters.”

With their loss, the Wizards will now face off against the Indiana Pacers—who threw the Charlotte Hornets into a 144-117 body bag on Tuesday—in a battle for the eighth seed on Thursday night. Hopefully, Beal and company actually come to play next time around since they sure as hell didn’t last night.

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Westbrook specifically struggled from the floor (he shot 6-18) and his erratic postseason play triggered many fans’ PSTD.

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Boston, however, has more important things to worry about: Like facing one of the most loaded teams in NBA history while being short-staffed themselves. Tatum’s co-pilot, fellow All-Star Jaylen Brown, might be out for the remainder of the season with torn ligaments in his wrist, but that won’t stop the Celtics from trying their best to shock the world with an upset.

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“Obviously, it’s going to be tough without [Jaylen],” Tatum said. “We know how good of a team [the Brooklyn Nets] are. Everybody knows the guys that they have over there.”

He continued, “But I’m excited to get this opportunity to be in the playoffs. It’s my fourth year in a row. I don’t take that for granted. Myself and everybody else, we’re excited. It’s the playoffs, so we just have to get ready for the next game.”

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Trust and believe Tatum will be up for the task.

Menace to supremacy. Founder of Extraordinary Ideas and co-host and producer of The Extraordinary Negroes podcast. Impatiently waiting for y'all to stop putting sugar in grits.

DISCUSSION

illinimike
IlliniMike

I’ve followed Tatum since he was a HS sophomore and an Illini recruiting target. Not remotely surprised that he’s become this good, but what’s impressive to me is how much more fluid he’s become. He used to be a lot more robotic and rigid in his movements, and not in that awesome Kawhi-esque, Terminator type of way. And I thought that might be his biggest limitation that would maybe top him out as a very good 3-and-D wing, and not a true superstar: not having that smooth, hitch-free “one motion” jumper that pretty much every apex predator swingman has. He’s gotten smoother and more fluid every year.