BOSTON – After Celtics star Jayson Tatum scored 44 points to lead his team to a 119-114 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Saturday, overcoming a spectacular 47-point performance by Stephen Curry, Tatum said it was a sensation was for him to go toe to toe with the future Hall of Famer and come out on top.
“Just mutual respect,” Tatum said, when asked about the conversation the two had in court in TD Garden afterwards. “Obviously two great performances. I was happy that we got the win, but he is clearly one of the greats of all time.
“Just to earn his respect and win the same night … it was a good night.”
It was a great night for all who watched this night as the Celtics and Warriors hit it off in one of the most entertaining games of the season. But while Curry has continued his scorching streak of late, breaking 30 points for a 10th game in a row, it was Boston that once again showed the kind of grit and toughness it missed so often earlier this season. Overcoming a 16-point deficit in the first half, the Celtics came back to take on a dramatic win that had the ebb and flow of a playoff game, unlike the one in the middle of the regular season.
Much of that was due to the back and forth battle between Tatum and Curry – one that Tatum, who finished 16-for-25 overall and 5-for-9 out of the three-point run, eventually won.
“First of all, I am amazed at what I saw tonight,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr. “At skill level and league level, it felt like a playoff game. Both teams were just gassed and competed like crazy, and just incredible pictures were taken, especially of Steph and Jayson. So what a basketball game. It hurts. but I told the team I feel like they got better tonight. “
This was the kind of match the Celtics would have lost very easily earlier this season. But for Boston, which has now won six in a row and eight out of nine since the calendar turned to April, these types of performances are becoming more and more credible. This is the third time in four games that the Celtics have overcome a double-digit deficit – after doing so in Denver on Sunday and in Portland on Tuesday – to keep this streak going.
But while there is clearly a renewed energy and momentum around this team that wasn’t there before, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said this comes from a pretty obvious place: that the Celtics are finally making the most of their core rotation on the field. have been able to achieve. and played together lately – even if they were without three of their top six players in Jaylen Brown, Evan Fournier and Robert Williams on Saturday night.
“I think the main reason for our little run here is that we’ve been healthier for the most part,” said Stevens. “Now we were a little less tonight, but we missed a lot of guys earlier this year. And I know that sounds like an excuse. I hope not. come a time when we get a little bit healthier and play good basketball for a few weeks. All this time our guys have done a great job sticking together. And when that happens, and then you get a little momentum, you tend to respond if you don’t feel well. “
Of course, it also helps a young star get hot, as Tatum did in this one, while Kemba Walker scored 26 points – including a critical 3-pointer with 24.8 seconds left to help avoid Curry and the Warriors. But after his last major performance, Tatum has now averaged 29.3 points in April and has finally helped the Celtics move away from the play-in tournament opportunity after a season of fits and starts. that has seen several players. – including Tatum – contract COVID-19.
Tatum scored 53 points in this building just eight days ago to make a new career high, but that game was against the Minnesota Timberwolves, one of the worst teams in the league. This one hit national television in a back-and-forth duel with one of the greatest players of all time in Curry – a game where both players took huge shots all the way.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Celtics guard Marcus Smart of Tatum’s development. “It’s a good feeling to see, it’s a good feeling to be a part of it. Just to see his development and to see him become a great player, it was an absolute pleasure to be a part of it. to make.”
And along the way, Tatum earned the respect of Curry, who received high praise for the young star after the game.
“I just told him he’s super cool, man,” Curry said. “You can tell the game has slowed down for him. Just by the way he picks and chooses his spots and how he manages the game. He shoots the ball a lot better from the edge, but when that game slows down, I don’t know if it’s four or five years, whatever he is, you’ll be deadly.
“Your skills, his size, their system defines him, so he is an extraordinary talent. Superior talent.”