Just how far can the Boston Celtics go? They are as hot as any team in the NBA and are riding the back of their young star Jayson Tatum. Tatum has been on a tear, leading the team in scoring the last 11 games.
During that stretch, Boston is 9-2. In eight of those games, Tatum has scored at least 30 points. In a game against the Brooklyn Nets, he poured in 54 points. He recently reflected on that game and said he knew that was his night.
Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics have been rolling since January
Who would’ve thought the Celtics would be in a position to grab the top seed in the Eastern Conference? Through 50 games this year, the Celtics were a mediocre 25-25 with frustrated players, coaches, and fans. A year ago, they finished the regular season 36-36 and had a quick postseason exit, falling to the Nets in the opening round.
For most of this season, it looked like the same old Celtics. There appeared to be chemistry issues when Marcus Smart publicly called out Tatum and Jaylen Brown for not passing the ball. First-year head coach Ime Udoka questioned the effort of his players on multiple occasions. The Celtics made a habit of blowing big leads.
Then Udoka challenged them after a tough loss against the New York Knicks on Jan. 6. From that point, the Celtics have gone 27-7 and find themselves 2.5 games behind the Miami Heat for the conference lead.
Tatum has led the way. According to a tweet by Celtics play-by-play announcer Sean Grande, Tatum is now the NBA leader in points scored this year. His 1,863 points are four more than DeMar DeRozan of the Chicago Bulls.
Jayson Tatum felt it during his 54-point game vs. the Nets
In his last 10 games, Tatum is averaging 34.4 points. This is the same guy who missed more than 20 straight three-point attempts during a frustrating stretch where he couldn’t find the basket.
Things have certainly turned around. In those last 10 games, he failed to reach 30 points twice. He hit 44 on the road against the Charlotte Hornets. The game before that, he went for 54 against Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and the Nets.
He recently reflected on that game, saying he knew it was his night.
“There is a moment in the game where it’s like, ‘All right, this is my day,” Tatum told Krysten Peek of Yahoo Sports. “You’re on a roll, you’re feeling it,’ and that was my night.”
He said the team is playing the game the right way, and they’re having a lot of fun doing so.
“We’ve been playing the right way, and we’ve been having fun doing it,” he said. “We’re just trying to compete at a high level on a nightly basis, and it’s been working.”
Tatum and the Celtics are clicking at the right time
The Celtics have nine games left in the regular season. They are fresh off a West Coast trip where they went 4-0.
Although the season has been filled with ups and downs, Tatum said the team never lost hope. They also never lost confidence.
“Somewhere in January, we kind of changed the course of the season around,” he said. “It was a little rocky at the beginning, but our demeanor never changed. We still believed in ourselves, and we knew that we were close, so we just had to get there.”
They got there.
Now, the playoffs are a reality, and the Celtics are playing their best basketball as the postseason draws near.