BOSTON – All it took for the Boston Celtics to end their seven-game home run with a victory Friday night was a 17-point comeback to force Jayson Tatum’s career-best game and overtime.
The 23-year-old All-Star finished with 53 points, the most of his career, including 35 points in the second half and overtime, to lead the Celtics to a 145-132 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, allowing Boston to escape a game in which it was behind for most of regulation, only to give a late lead and send the game into overtime.Photo: Getty.
Tatum, 23, became the youngest Celtic to score 50 in a game, beating out Larry Bird, who did so at 26.
“Scoring 50 is a great thing in this league, and especially at this age,” Tatum said. “It will be a night that I will always remember, and we also got the victory, a great victory.
“Every victory right now is great.”
Friday’s game was, in many ways, a microcosm of Boston’s entire season. Playing once again without Evan Fournier, who has missed the last few games due to NBA health and safety protocols, and will not travel with the Celtics on their impending three-game trip to the West Coast, the lack of depth of Boston was a problem.
Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Kemba Walker played at least 39 minutes, were the only four players in double figures, and combined to score 120 of Boston’s 145 points. And, for a team that has been wildly inconsistent all season, the Celtics once again battled for long stretches of this game against one of the worst teams in the NBA.
Those struggles included being 14 points behind at the end of the first quarter, prompting coach Brad Stevens to make a very unusual move and return to his full starting five to start the second.
“To be honest, I just didn’t want it to be 30 at halftime,” Stevens said blankly afterward. “He wasn’t going in the right direction, and he just wanted to keep his distance. Just hold on.”
While it didn’t work out exactly the way Stevens intended, when Boston entered the half with nine points, the Celtics finally made their way back into the game with a barrage of 3s in the second half. After hitting 5 of 15 from deep in the first half, Boston completed 14 of 27 from behind the arc in the second half and overtime, including Tatum, who was 11 of 17 overall after halftime, going 5 – for-8 from behind the arch.
“When we came back in third, you could see he had it,” Stevens said. “And the guys did a good job finding it.
“Tatum was super special tonight … don’t mistake his quiet demeanor for not being a competitor. He is a competitor.”
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Boston needed every ounce of that competitiveness to win this one. The Celtics let an 11-point lead with just over 3 minutes remaining in regulation evaporate as the Wolves closed the fourth quarter with a 15-4 run, capped by a 3-pointer by D’Angelo Russell with 8.6 seconds to go. final. send the game into overtime.
But instead of being beaten by the way the fourth ended, Boston responded with another run to put the game into overtime. The Celtics took advantage of Tatum’s attention to get first Brown and then Walker (twice) open for 3-pointers on 3 straight possessions to open the game and give Boston a lead they wouldn’t give up.
“Staying the course,” Smart said, when asked how Boston was able to recover in overtime. “We had some plays that could have really changed for us and we couldn’t win along the way and we’ve been falling. We just decide and keep talking and I think we tell each other that we have to move on and just keep fighting whatever adversity we have. is presented to us “