BOSTON — Following Celtics star Jayson Tatum scored 44 points to lead his team into a 119-114 success over the Warriors on Saturday, overcoming a spectacular 47-point functionality out of Stephen Curry in the procedure, Tatum said it was a thrill to go toe-to-toe together with the future Hall of Famer and come out on top.
“Just mutual esteem,” Tatum said, when asked about the dialogue that the two had on the court within TD Garden afterward. “Clearly two big performances. I was glad we got the win, but clearly he’s one of the all-time greats.
“Only to make his respect for a win on the exact same night… it was a good night.”
It was a fantastic night for anyone watching this one, as the Celtics and Warriors slugged it out in a few of the most entertaining games of the season. The Celtics defeated a 16-point deficit in the first half and came back to get a dramatic success that had the ebbs and flows with a playoff match, rather than one in the center of the regular season.
Much of this was due to this back-and-forth struggle between Tatum and Curry — one that Tatum, who completed 16-for-25 overall and 5-for-9 out of 3-point selection, ultimately acquired.
“First of all, I’m in awe of that which I saw tonight,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “From a skill level and degree of rivalry, it felt like a playoff game on the market. Both teams were just gassed and competed like mad, and only incredible shot-making, especially from Steph and Jayson. So what a basketball match. It hurts to lose, but I told the group I feel as though they got tonight”
This was the type of sport that, earlier this year, the Celtics readily would have dropped. This is the third time in four games the Celtics have conquer a double-digit deficit — having done so in Denver on Sunday and Portland on Tuesday — to keep this streak going.
But while there is clearly a newfound power and momentum about that team which was not there before, Celtics coach Brad Stevens explained that stems out of a rather obvious location: The Celtics have been able to get most of their core spinning on the court and playing together recently — even if they were without three of their top six players in Jaylen Brown, Evan Fournier and Robert Williams on Saturday night.
“I believe that the number one reason behind our little encounter here is we’ve been, for the most part, healthier,” Stevens explained. “Now tonight we had been a tiny bit less, but we just missed a lot of guys earlier in the year. And I know that seems like a justification. I hope it does not. I think what we attempted to do is remain afloat and we could and hope that we reach a time where we get just a bit healthier and put together a few weeks of good basketball. During all this, our guys have done an amazing job of remaining together. And when that occurs, and then you get a little momentum, then you have a propensity to react when you don’t feel great.”
Obviously, in addition, it helps to have a young star get sexy, as Tatum failed in this one, while Kemba Walker chipped in 26 points — including a important 3-pointer with 24.8 seconds left to help stave off Curry along with the Warriors. Following his latest big performance, Tatum is averaging 29.3 points per game in April and has helped the Celtics start to move away from the chance of being in the play-in championship following a year filled with fits and starts that’s seen many players — including Tatum — contract COVID-19.
Tatum scored 53 points in this construction just eight days ago to set a career high, but that match was contrary to the Minnesota Timberwolves, among the league’s worst teams. This one arrived on nationwide television in a back-and-forth duel having an all-time good in Curry — a game which saw both players hit massive shots down the stretch.
“It is a good feeling to see. It is a good feeling to be part of. Just to see his development and watch him continue to descend right into a great player, it’s definitely been a joy to be a part of.”
And along the way, Tatum earned the esteem of Curry, who had lots of praise for the young star after the game was finished.
“I told him he is super tough, guy,” Curry said. “You can tell the game has slowed down for himjust in the way he picks and chooses his spots and also the way he kind of manages the match. He’s shooting the ball a lot better in the perimeter, but when that match slows down, I don’t know whether it is four or five years in, whatever he is, that is when you become mortal.
“Together with your skill set, his dimension, their system comprises him, so he’s a ultimate gift. Supreme talent.”