BOSTON (CBS) — Celtics fans have a lot to look forward to in the future, so they probably won’t dwell too much on Sunday night’s Game 7 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
While losing Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals on your home floor is extremely disappointing, especially given how winnable the game was for Boston, the future is extremely bright for the Celtics. And that glowing future is highlighted by the postseason play of rookie Jayson Tatum.
The moment rarely looked too big for the 20-year-old Tatum throughout his rookie year, and he elevated his game in the playoffs, averaging 18.2 points per contest during the postseason. He finished his postseason with 351 points, the second-highest total in NBA history. His season ended with a team-high 24 points in 42 minutes for Boston in Game 7, including a highlight that Celtics fans will be watching on a loop all summer despite Sunday night’s outcome.
Given his young age, Tatum grew up idolizing LeBron James. He even tweeted at him as a kid and begged him for a follow. That didn’t happen, and he probably didn’t improve his chances by posterizing James in the fourth quarter of Game 7.
Tatum showed no mercy on his idol as he tried to keep the Celtics in the contest, driving hard to the hoop and ferociously slamming it down on James. For good measure, he gave James (who finished with 35 points in Cleveland’s win) a chest bump and a stare as he skipped up the floor. James didn’t look very pleased (and borderline shocked) with the bump, but Tatum said he meant no disrespect by it after the game.
“Just in the moment,” he said. “Made a play. Just showing emotion.”
James even sang Tatum’s praises after the game, which he’s done throughout the series.
“I just love everything about the kid, the way he plays the game, his demeanor, where he comes from,” James said. “I just know he’s built for stardom. He’s built for success. And that’s both on and off the floor.”
Tatum’s jam brought the Celtics within two points with 6:42 to play, and he gave Boston a lead with a three-pointer less than a minute later. But it wasn’t enough as Boston struggled down the stretch and fell 87-79.
While Tatum’s and the Celtics’ season came to an end on Sunday, the lessons he learned along the way should make him even better in the future.
“The postseason has been a lot of fun, from the first game to today. I’ve learned so much,” Tatum said. “I’ve just enjoyed everything that we’ve accomplished, everything we went through. I just had so much fun out there each and every night, no matter if we won or lost, just how we competed and always gave it our all. It was my first year, so I was just out there having fun.”
He had a lot of fun turning heads as a 20-year-old rookie, and Celtics fans had a lot of fun watching him develop. The future is certainly bright for the Celtics and Jayson Tatum.