Jayson Tatum Erupts for 50 Points in Celtics' Game 3 Win over Kyrie Irving, NetsMay 29, 2021
The Boston Celtics returned home to TD Garden and picked up a massive 125-119 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Friday.
The Nets still lead the first-round series 2-1, but no team in NBA history has rallied back from a 3-0 series deficit, making Game 3 a crucial one for the Celtics.
In his postseason return to Boston, former Celtics guard Kyrie Irving notched just 16 points as Brooklyn's Big 3 of Irving, Kevin Durant and James Harden combined for 96 points.
That just wasn't enough to silence the crowd at TD Garden, or stop small forward Jayson Tatum from dropping 50 points, as the Celtics avoided the brink of a first-round elimination.
Jayson Tatum, SF, Boston Celtics: 50 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds
Marcus Smart, PG, Boston Celtics: 23 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds, 5 three-pointers
Kevin Durant, PF, Brooklyn Nets: 39 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist
James Harden, SG, Brooklyn Nets: 41 points, 10 assists, 7 rebounds, 7 three-pointers
Tatum Drops 50 Again
The lasting image of Tatum's latest 50-point outing won't be his jumper over Kevin Durant, his drives to the rim or any of his five three-pointers on the night—though all are worthy candidates.
It'll be Tatum running to his son, Deuce, on the sidelines, picking him up and celebrating Boston's first playoff victory of the year with a massive embrace before Deuce began running around the court like his dad.
That's not to say everything Tatum did before he got to hug his son wasn't equally thrilling. It only made the moment that much more special.
Facing a dire 3-0 series deficit—and with breakout center Robert Williams III unable to play the second half after an injury in the first 24 minutes—Tatum completely took over for Celtics. The 23-year-old posted 21 points through the first two frames before exploding for another 29 after the break.
Tatum played the entire third quarter, posting 19 points in the frame and keeping the Celtics ahead of the Nets.
After Brooklyn briefly took a 73-72 lead midway through the third, Tatum factored into 11 of the next 12 Celtics points by assisting on three Marcus Smart three-pointers and knocking down three free throws. That helped Boston surge back ahead 85-77 and secure a lead the Celtics wouldn't relinquish for the rest of the night.
Just when it looked like the Celtics' season was winding down, Tatum showed he's as capable of taking over games as any player in the NBA. Keeping his jump shot hot might just be Boston's best chance at getting past the Nets.
Friday night proved it's entirely plausible.
Irving Invisible In Return To Boston
Before Tatum made anything the Nets could do irrelevant in Game 3, Friday was supposed to be all about Kyrie Irving.
Sure, the guard had been back to Boston since he stunned the franchise by leaving to join the Nets last year, but he'd yet to play in front of Celtics fans. Injuries cost him most of the 2019-20 season while health and safety protocols during the pandemic made it impossible for any spectators to get inside TD Garden during the season when the Nets visited.
On Friday, with fans finally allowed back in, Irving got to show them what they were missing in person. It wasn't all that impressive.
Despite hyping up the crowd to boo him during warmups—which Celtics fans obliged by jeering the guard every time he touched the ball—Irving was the only member of the Nets' Big 3 to play flat for 48 minutes.
Irving had just eight points after three quarters and didn't hit his first shot behind the arc until well into the fourth quarter.
Brooklyn may be talented enough on paper to hang with any team in the NBA, but that generally starts with Irving and Harden in the backcourt. Harden held up his end of the bargain with a franchise playoff record seven three-pointers, but that could hardly make up for Irving shooting 6-of-17 from the floor.
Marc J. Spears @MarcJSpears
Nets say Kevin Durant has tallied 25+ points in each of the first three games of the Nets' series vs. Boston. KD is the first Net to score 25+ points in three straight playoff games since Vince Carter did so in Games 3-5 of the Nets' first round series vs. Toronto in 2007.
The Nets had everything working early, and were able to take a 15-point lead in the first quarter, but that became unsustainable as soon as it became clear this was Tatum's night and not Irving's.
Brooklyn will need to reverse those outcomes in Game 4 if it's going to continue pulling away from the Celtics in the first-round series.
Game 4 is scheduled for Sunday, May 30 in Boston at 7 p.m. ET on TNT.