It seemed inevitable that after scoring 38 points through the first three quarters, Jayson Tatum would get the four points needed to set a new personal scoring high much like his teammate Jaylen Brown accomplished a few games ago.
But with the Boston Celtics pretty much cruising to a 126-114 victory over the Toronto Raptors Monday night, Tatum spent much of the final frame occupying the bench and came up just one bucket shy of setting a new mark for himself.
Tatum didn’t hang his head over the missed opportunity. He had plenty to revel in anyways after dominating the Raptors to the tune of 40 points on 11-of-19 shooting in just 32 minutes of action. And for Tatum, he feels performances like these will be more commonplace in the future, giving him plenty of chances to break his previous scoring mark.
“Disappointing? Nah. I’m going to get that soon enough,” Tatum said.
Each and every night JT plays his heart out. Call him tonight's @Gatorade Player of the Game. pic.twitter.com/0ulqnL1IsL— Boston Celtics (@celtics) January 5, 2021
Tatum dazzled with his sweet-looking jumper to spearhead a shorthanded Celtics team that was missing Marcus Smart and Jeff Teague due to injury. Tatum, who hit 5 of his 8 3-pointers, erupted for 21 points in the second quarter and while he buried four treys in the frame, it was his ability to get to the free-throw line that made the ultimate difference.
Tatum came into the contest with the Raptors having shot a mere 20 free throws in seven games, but Tatum constantly attacked Toronto’s defense and forced it into a bind to get to the charity stripe nine times alone in the second quarter, where he finished a perfect 13-for-13 for the game.
Tatum’s torrid offensive showing came just three games after a similar output from Jaylen Brown, who notched a career-high 42 points last week versus the Memphis Grizzlies, as the young star duo continues to feed off each other.
“We’re just trying to play off each other as we both continue to get better and grow individually,” said Tatum to NBC Sports Boston’s Chris Forsberg following the game. “Obviously, we’re going to be together for a while and we feel like we’re two of the best guys in the league and we’re only going to continue to get better.”
"We're going to be together for a while."— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) January 5, 2021
JT and JB aren't going anywhere. That's what we like to hear pic.twitter.com/ddwVmsCSxQ
While it seemed like Tatum’s night was over after draining a pretty fallaway jumper with Pascal Siakam draped all over him with 10:21 left, Stevens had to go back to Tatum and Brown with 2:33 remaining after Toronto cut Boston’s massive advantage down to 10.
Tatum helped preserve Boston’s lead but it also led to a puzzling scene during a timeout with 40 seconds left. Tatum was visibly frustrated in the huddle, slamming his hands on a chair and letting his voiced be heard.
Jayson Tatum appeared to be pretty frustrated in that last huddle. Don't often see him being this vocal: pic.twitter.com/7tHdefbRie— Chris Grenham (@chrisgrenham) January 5, 2021
After the game, Tatum said, “I was just talking to my teammates about the game.”
But this was a much different side of Tatum, one that has really been seen during his tenure in Boston. It could be a sign of the progress he has made as a leader or the lengths he his willing to go to eradicate sloppy play.
It certainly was a much different Tatum, but his on-court performance was just more of the same from a star player continuing to make his mark on the league.