NBA

'Special' Tatum helps Celtics respond against Nets with 50-point outing

By Sports Desk May 29, 2021

Jayson Tatum admitted to having "just one of those nights" after scoring 50 points to help the Boston Celtics strike back in their series against the Brooklyn Nets.

The Celtics found themselves in a 2-0 hole in the playoffs after successive defeats in Brooklyn, during which Tatum managed a combined total of 31 points.

His Game 2 contribution was cut short at 21 minutes after he suffered a poke in the eye, the injury ruling him out as the Nets prevailed 130-108 to double their advantage.

However, Tatum had no issues seeing the basket on Friday when the series switched to Boston, going 16-for-30 shooting from the floor as he reached a half-century of points in a 125-119 triumph.

"It's just one of those nights." Tatum said afterwards.

"A tough shooting night the first game and I didn't get to play much the last game because I got poked in the eye."

His performance makes him just the third Celtic to score 50 in a regulation playoff game, following in the footsteps of John Havlicek (54 in 1973) and Sam Jones (51 in 1967).

Isaiah Thomas was the previous Boston player to achieve the milestone in a playoff contest, managing 53 in an overtime victory over the Washington Wizards in May 2017.

For Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, it was just the latest example of Tatum's undoubted talent.

"He is so advanced for 23 years old; I’ve said the word 'special', and I don’t say that very often, obviously," Stevens told the media.

"But he just has a unique ability to score the ball, to slither through screens and find angles to score, but also the vision to make every right move.

"He was super tonight, but he's been like that a lot this year. He's special."

The game marked Kyrie Irving’s first appearance with fans present in Boston since his departure in 2019. The point guard was booed by the home crowd throughout proceedings as he finished with 16 points and six rebounds.

Irving left in free agency after two seasons with the franchise, opting to move closer to New Jersey for family reasons as he signed with the Nets.

"It's basketball. I've been in a few environments in my life," Irving said about the reaction he received.

"Like I said, as long as it's just strictly the nature of basketball out there and there's nothing extra, I'm cool with it."

James Harden led the way with 41 points for the Nets, while Kevin Durant had 39. Game 4 of the first-round series takes place in Boston on Sunday.

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    Of those 51, 27 were assists, with Thomas Muller (39), Kevin De Bruyne (32) and Lionel Messi (27) the only three to boast a higher tally.

    While some critics have argued Sancho's 16.0 expected assists (xA) in that time shows that his form was unsustainable, that was still an extremely high figure as he ranked 11th among the same group of players.

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    The England international came in for criticism after a particularly anonymous substitute appearance in the 2-2 draw with Aston Villa, though it would seem the Sancho playing in matches is almost unrecognisable to the one Rangnick sees in training.

    "Whenever I see him train, he's showing that he's one of the best players in the training sessions," Rangnick said.

    "But now it's about transferring that to when he's playing, and showing the same kind of level and performance on the pitch.

    "I said that to him, by the way, the day before yesterday: 'Confirm the performances you show in training when you're playing on the pitch.'

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    "Now he's playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world. I think it's also got to do with a lot of different things up here in his head. It's a difference if you come as an 18-year-old, unknown, a talented English boy to Borussia Dortmund.

    "From then on, you can only improve; you can only make a success out of that. The level of expectation was a lot lower compared to the situation when, at the age of 21, you come to a club like Manchester United for a high transfer fee, with a high level of expectation.

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