By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — As the Celtics get deeper into the postseason, their 20-year-old rookie keeps getting better.
Jayson Tatum led the way for Boston in their thrilling 108-103 win in Game 2 on Thursday night, dropping a team-high 21 points on the 76ers in the Celtics’ comeback victory. He used his full arsenal of offensive moves, displaying some explosive drives to the hoop and some smooth three-point shooting, going 7-for-14 from the floor while hitting two of his four bids from downtown.
He now has 20 or more points in four straight games, tying a Boston franchise record while also passing another future Hall of Famer in the record books. With four straight 20-plus point games, Tatum matches Larry Bird’s Celtics rookie record from 1980, and at just 20 years and 61 days, he is the youngest player to accomplish the feat in NBA history. The man he beat out for that record? Kobe Bryant, who did it in 1999 at 20 years and 272 days.
That’s some darn good company for the Boston rook.
Tatum did most of his damage in the second half on Thursday night, scoring 16 points while also coming up with a block and a steal. He wasn’t afraid to go against anyone when he had the ball in his hand, leading to several highlights for Celtics fans to watch over and over before Saturday’s Game 3. In the third quarter, Tatum blew by Philadelphia big man Joel Embiid for a monster dunk that upped Boston’s lead to eight points:
And in a win that had a handful of exclamation points, Tatum accounted for one of them in the final minutes as he threw down a Terry Rozier lob in transition to give Boston a six-point lead with 2:23 to go:
After some early struggles during Boston’s first-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks, Tatum has looked like a superstar in the making as of late. He dropped 28 against Philadelphia in Game 1, and is now averaging 17.4 points through his nine playoff games. He’s hit half of his shots in the East Semis, going 15-for-30, and is shooting 43 percent overall for the postseason.
All of this continues to help the Celtics win important basketball games, and makes C’s president Danny Ainge look like a genius for trading the No. 1 pick to Philly over the summer. Many were scratching their heads when Ainge sent the top pick (and the chance to take the consensus top prospect in Markelle Fultz) to Philadelphia for the third overall selection and a future protected pick, chalking it up as Trader Danny doing his thing.
But Ainge fell in love with Tatum during the pre-draft process, and the youngster is showing the basketball world why. Meanwhile, Fultz has logged two straight DNP’s on the Philadelphia bench, giving him a front-row seat for Tatum’s big performances.
Tatum won’t win Rookie of the Year, not with 76ers guard Ben Simmons having a monster first season on an NBA floor. But it’s looking like Tatum’s season is going to last longer than Simmons’, and the Celtics rookie has made it pretty clear that he’s going to be an offensive force in the league for years to come.