By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The 2020-21 season got off to a thrilling start for the Boston Celtics, with Jayson Tatum lifting the team to a 122-121 win over the Milwaukee Bucks thanks to his game-winning bank shot with 0.4 seconds left.
After the Celtics blew a double-digit lead early in the fourth quarter, the team was down 120-119 with 8.9 seconds to go. Tatum took Marcus Smart’s inbound pass and calmly dribbled along the left arc. He didn’t worry when reigning MVP and Defensive Player of the Year Giannis Antetokounmpo switched to him on defense, though he knew that he’d have to get a little creative to get a shot over Giannis’ 7-foot-3 wingspan.
Tatum put a little extra loft on his shot and banked it in for the go-ahead basket with just a few fractions of a tick left on the clock.
TATUM IS CLUTCH 🚨 pic.twitter.com/ffj5OypQwo
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 24, 2020
“At the time, it was just try to make the right play,” Tatum said after the win.
It’s hard to imagine that Brad Stevens drew up an ISO three against the DPOY, but that’s where Tatum found himself in the final seconds. It wasn’t exactly a pretty shot, either, and not how Tatum drew it up in his head.
He had no intentions of visiting the bank when he let it fly, but he’s pretty pleased with the outcome.
“I ain’t try to,” he laughed. “But the angle that I had and knowing how tall [Giannis] is… I tried to get some separation and get some arc on it.
“Once I let it go I knew it would hit the backboard, but I wouldn’t say I tried,” he echoed.
Whatever works, right? Tatum’s teammates didn’t care that he used the glass — or that he didn’t call bank.
“Hell of a shot. Big time shot,” said Jaylen Brown. “The type of shot we trust JT with and he looks forward to. I don’t know if he called glass, but I’ll take it.”
“Big time players make big time plays when it’s needed, and that’s what he did,” added newcomer Tristan Thompson.
Even Celtics great Paul Pierce enjoyed the show, borrowing a quote from one of his more famous non-Celtics moments:
I didn’t call bank I called game #jt0
— Paul Pierce (@paulpierce34) December 24, 2020
It was a great scene for the Celtics, albeit a little bit of a strange one. As players hit the floor after the win, their cheers would usually be met — and matched — by the sounds of over 18,000 fans losing their mind to some Gino Time. But you need no reminder that people can’t actually attend games at TD Garden or around the NBA at the moment.
“It was definitely weird. But I know all the Celtics fans were going crazy,” said Brown. “We appreciate you guys. Keep sending that energy even though you aren’t in the building.”
The Celtics needed contributions from everyone to win Wednesday’s game, and overall, Tatum was a bit up and down on opening night. He finished with 30 points, just behind Brown’s team-best 33 points, but his desire to be a more efficient scorer will have to wait another night. Tatum hit just 12 of his 28 shots from the floor.
But the 22-year-old shook off his 3-for-10 start and exploded for 21 points in the second half, scoring nine of them in the fourth. Of course, he had the three most important points for Boston, giving the team a much-needed victory to start the season.
“You always want to start the season with a win, even if it doesn’t make or break a season. There is a lot we can learn from this game, as we’ll see tomorrow in the film. I wish we played better in the preseason, but that’s what it’s for — building chemistry. We’re still trying to figure things out and it’s a process, but we have 71 games left. It’s good to start with a win.”