By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Jayson Tatum is a star. Not a rising star, or a star-in the-making. The kid is already a star.READ MORE: Revolution Join Long List Of Supporters' Shield Winners To Come Up Short In MLS Playoffs
The rest of the NBA has taken notice, including the star of the game. LeBron James may have led his Lakers to a 114-112 win over the Celtics on Sunday afternoon, but even he couldn’t believe what he had just witnessed from Tatum. Boston’s young stud dropped 41 points to match his career-high, showing off any and every move that he has in his arsenal. He danced his way through the paint for easy layups or floaters, making defenders look foolish in the process. He went after Anthony Davis on a number of occasions and got the better of the matchup, either with his quickness in the paint or with a pull-up three.
Tatum had it going from long-range, hitting four of his seven attempts from three-point distance. He also made it a point to get to the free throw line, making 15 strips to the charity stripe. Tatum drained 13 of those freebies.
His loudest bucket came with just under 10 minutes in the third quarter, when Marcus Smart swiped a bad pass from James. Gordon Hayward hit a streaking Tatum down the floor, and he flushed it home with an emphatic jam to give Boston a 63-59 lead. Tatum torched Los Angeles for 36 points in the second and third quarters.
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) February 23, 2020
Tatum absolutely dominated Sunday afternoon’s showcase game through the first three quarters. He was the best player on the floor despite sharing the spotlight with James and Davis. The Lakers knew they had to change things up if they wanted to win, and that started with their defense on Tatum.
In a sure sign that Tatum has arrived, he received star treatment from L.A.’s top defense over the final frame. The Lakers switched up their defense and let Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope try their best at slowing down Tatum, often with the assistance of another defender. Tatutm was met with double teams whenever he touched the ball, and had just four points in the fourth quarter. The Lakers were going to make someone else on the Celtics beat them, a move that paid off in the end.READ MORE: Snowy Owl Rescued From New Hampshire Road
Tatum said this was the first time he’s seen a team send a double team his way that much. Given the way he’s played lately, he can expect to see a whole lot more. He’s averaging 27.6 points since Jan. 11, scoring at least 30 points five times with a pair of 41-point performances over that stretch. (It’s a shame officials didn’t give him the same treatment late in the contest, hitting Tatum with an offensive foul on his last-second shot attempt. That should come, eventually — we hope.)
After being given the star treatment by the Lakers on the floor, James gave it to Tatum as they walked off of it. He had a quick chat with Tatum after the game, and said on the floor, “The kid is special.”
He had a different description for Tatum on social media a little while later.
“That boi to the left of me is an ABSOLUTE PROBLEM!!” James wrote in an Instagram post.
That’s some nice respect. “The Problem” has a nice ring to it.
Tatum now has his own “problem” on his hands, as he can expect more and more double teams the rest of the way, especially in Boston’s marquee matchups. But such is life in the NBA for a star player, and it’s a problem Tatum will gladly take on.MORE NEWS: E.G. Daily On 'Rugrat's New Holiday Special "Traditions": 'We Embrace Everyone And Everything'
Tatum’s star has been shining pretty bright, with just about everything coming much easier for the third-year forward. But the best players tend to rise higher when the going gets even tougher, and it’s about to get a lot tougher for Tatum.