Jayson Tatum Drops 50 as Celtics Beat Wizards, Will Face Nets in 2021 NBA Playoffs

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIMay 19, 2021

BOSTON, MA - MAY 18: Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics shoots the ball during the game against the Washington Wizards during the 2021 NBA Play-In Tournament on May 18, 2021 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE  (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

Jayson Tatum scored 23 of his 50 points in the third quarter to propel the Boston Celtics to a playoff berth after defeating the visiting Washington Wizards 118-100 at TD Garden in the Eastern Conference's play-in tournament.

Tatum shot 14-of-32 for the game and hit all 17 of his free throws. Kemba Walker added 29 points for the C's.

The Wizards' dynamic duo of Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal struggled from the field, scoring their 42 points on 16-of-43 shooting. Westbrook added 14 rebounds and five assists.

The Celtics will be the East's No. 7 seed. Washington can still make the playoffs but needs a victory against the Indiana Pacers on Thursday at Capital One Arena to qualify as the Eastern Conference's No. 8 seed.

Indiana defeated Charlotte 144-117 earlier Tuesday in a play-in game to earn a date with the Wizards.

Notable Performances

Celtics F Jayson Tatum: 50 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists

Celtics G Kemba Walker: 29 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals

Celtics C Tristan Thompson: 12 points, 12 rebounds

Wizards G Bradley Beal: 22 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists

Wizards G Russell Westbrook: 20 points, 14 rebounds, 3 steals

Wizards G Ish Smith: 17 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals

Tatum's Tremendous 3rd Quarter Puts Celtics in Playoffs

Tatum nearly outscored the Wizards by himself in the third quarter, with Washington posting only three more points than the Celtics star.

He shot 7-of-10 from the field and 7-of-7 from the free-throw line in the third quarter and hit his buckets in bunches.

Of note, his aggression around the paint put the Wizards in a bind.

A. Sherrod Blakely @ASherrodblakely

Tatum has been super-aggressive getting to the rim. He's got 45 points, 15 of which have come on 15 made free throws. The only games this season when he made that many FTs, he finished with 53 and 60 points, respectively. pic.twitter.com/mK0ENlvGpA

Keith Smith @KeithSmithNBA

Tatum has 35 points now. He's 9-9 at the free throw line tonight. He's done most of his damage in and around the paint.

The 23-year-old started his third-quarter effort with a three-point play to give the C's an early second-half lead.

Boston Celtics @celtics

JT getting to the paint pic.twitter.com/L6826GHTcZ

After Beal hit a jumper in response, Tatum dished to Walker for a three-pointer that gave Boston the edge for good.

That was the first of three Tatum assists to Walker, who went on a personal 9-0 run thanks to a trio of three-pointers. Boston added four more points to cap a 13-0 stretch.

Tatum eventually scored 10 in a 1:27 span in the first part of the quarter, giving Boston its largest lead of the game at 74-58.


Jayson Tatum (26 PTS) with back-to-back buckets... @celtics have opened up a 13-point lead on TNT!<br><br>Winner will be the East #7 seed in the #NBAPlayoffs. Loser faces Indiana on Thursday to decide the #8 seed. pic.twitter.com/qfAx5LLnwh

Boston Celtics @celtics

🤑👌 pic.twitter.com/Sr8JI69TaP

He checked out for a minute-and-a-half before adding another 10 points in the final 3:10.


41 PTS (23 in the 3rd) for Jayson Tatum through Q3 on TNT! #PhantomCam@WashWizards 80@celtics 90<br><br>Winner will be the East #7 seed in the #NBAPlayoffs. Loser faces Indiana on Thursday to decide the #8 seed. pic.twitter.com/3wcNajHZ1d

Tatum ultimately either scored or assisted on 32 of the Celtics' third-quarter points.

His effort forced Washington to play catch-up in the fourth, and the differential was too big to overcome in the end, with the Wizards unable to cut the lead within seven.

There was no shortage of compliments for Tatum's work:

Jared Weiss @JaredWeissNBA

Jayson Tatum is now 15/15 from the free throw line and there's still 10 minutes left in the game. 43 points and counting. Also playing some great defense tonight. One of the best games of his career.

Chris Mannix @SIChrisMannix

Superstar-level game for Jayson Tatum. Incredible.

Adam Zagoria @AdamZagoria

Live look-in at Jayson Tatum pic.twitter.com/qi873RmzV2

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Jayson Tatum tonight pic.twitter.com/RBT3HNkVxd

He also found himself alongside a Celtics franchise legend in the record books:

SB Nation @SBNation

Jayson Tatum just recorded his third 50-point game, and he's the only Celtic not named Larry Bird to do that @celticsblog <br><br>Larry Bird did it at 29<br>Jayson Tatum did it at 23 pic.twitter.com/Nq9il1ICd1

Overall, it was a sensational night for Tatum, who may need a few more heroic performances for Boston to make a playoff run. Given how well Tatum performed, however, it's certainly possible seeing that happen.


Outside Tatum, Wizards' Poor Shooting, Mistakes Help Lead to Loss

The Wizards lost primarily because Tatum took this game over in the third quarter, but they had their chances to get back in it.

However, Washington had too many problems outside defending the Celtics' superstar.

For starters, it was an off night for Westbrook, who has largely been sensational this year as he resembles his 2016-17 NBA MVP-winning self. The triple-double machine had a rough game, shooting just 6-of-18 from the field and scoring just six points after halftime.

Fred Katz @FredKatz

Maybe the oddest Russell Westbrook performance of the season, and certainly his worst in about two months. <br><br>He had six points, one rebound and ZERO assists in the second half after closing the season on a historic assist streak and with 24 triple-doubles in 29 games.

Westbrook entered Tuesday averaging 23.7 points, 13.3 rebounds and 13.3 assists in his last 36 games, and this team isn't finding itself in a win-and-in position for a playoff berth without him. He very well could end up posting a monster triple-double Thursday to put Washington in the playoffs.

But Tuesday's loss falls on more shoulders.

Davis Bertans missed all seven of his three-pointers, and the Wizards shot just 3-of-21 from three-point range as a team.

Wizards starters not named Beal or Westbrook scored just 13 points combined.

Washington also committed some costly mistakes, with Boston scoring 20 points off turnovers compared to the Wizards' six.

Washington also had no answer for Walker, who drilled six three-pointers.

Ultimately, the Wizards still survive for at least one more day, so this loss could be moot. In the end, Tatum was too strong, and Washington didn't play well enough to keep pace with the C's.


What's Next?

The Celtics will face the No. 2 Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the playoffs. That series will begin Saturday at a to-be-determined time.

Washington will host the Pacers on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET, with the winner advancing to play the No. 1 Philadelphia 76ers in the first round beginning Sunday.