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Jayson Tatum on win over Jazz: ‘I wasn’t suppose to play today’

Celtics star Jayson Tatum spoke on the team’s travel struggles galvanizing the group in what he called a “rewarding” win on Friday night.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Boston Celtics David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

With a 122-114 on Friday night against the Utah Jazz, the Boston Celtics are now winners of two straight games heading into the final four games of the season. While the odds are slim, the Celtics still have a slim chance at the one seed if they win out and the Bucks falter.

As the regular season is set to expire, every single game means more because of seeding, especially for the Celtics. That proved to be even more true on Friday night, as Jayson Tatum led all scorers with 39 points on 12-of-17 shooting, including 5-of-8 from three to go along with 11 rebounds, three assists, and three steals. It might have been a completely different outcome if Tatum hadn’t played, and truth be told, he wasn’t supposed to.

After their big win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night, the Celtics boarded their plane to head back to Boston that night; that flight never got off the runway. Due to illness, their pilot was unable to fly them back home, and after about 30 minutes, the team deboarded and headed back to a hotel, where they faced issues finding rooms to sleep in. Because of their unexpected flight and hotel issues, the Celtics left the next day for Boston, and didn’t get back in town until 1:30 pm after a late night.

“I wasn’t suppose to play today, but we were talking on the plane that we’re all in this together,” said Tatum. “So I just wanted to go through it with the guys and rock out and play and figure it out.” Tatum described the win over Utah as “rewarding” after the team dealt with all of their travel issues leading into Friday night.

This isn’t the first time travel issues have come up this week, with Jaylen Brown citing traffic as a problem following the Celtics 130-111 loss to the Washington Wizards. Even if they did have legitimate issues in Milwaukee, or were on the second night of a back-to-back, the Celtics weren’t looking to give excuses if they came out flat against the Jazz at TD Garden.

“That’s why that kind of put it over the edge for me to play today,” Tatum said. “We talked about it in the locker room yesterday, before we knew that we were gonna have to stay in Milwaukee, that last night didn’t mean anything if we don’t win today (against Utah).”

Losing on the second night of a back-to-back is already a built-in excuse for most people; it’s the same excuse that was being used for the Bucks after they let the Celtics drop 140 on their heads in their own house. But for this case, it wasn’t just the back-to-back, it was Murphy’s Law in full effect.

“So everything that happened, we could have made an excuse,” said Tatum. “But it just kind of brought us closer together, right? Everybody just was like, ‘It’s not going to be perfect but we’re going to figure out a way to win this game.’”

That sentiment is what separates the good teams from the rest of the pack, and the makings of a championship squad. It’s not pretty, it’s certainly not perfect, but good teams find a way to win ugly games regardless of the circumstances stacked against them. That’s exactly what the Celtics did Friday against Utah.

Soon enough, the regular season will come to a close, the play-in tournament will kick off, and the playoffs will be underway. The past few months have been a roller coaster for the Celtics, with some highs and lows sprinkled in that had most people questioning what kind of team was going to show up on any given night. After their wins against Milwaukee and Utah, there’s no inkling of a doubt what team we will see come playoff time. Boston suits up next against Philadelphia on Tuesday, 8 pm EST tipoff.

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