Markelle Fultz makes first shot, but Jayson Tatum, Celtics get last laugh

Markelle Fultz makes first shot, but Jayson Tatum, Celtics get last laugh

BOSTON – The very first point scored in the much-anticipated Boston-Philadelphia summer league matchup, was by Markelle Fultz.

But as is the case in the regular season and playoffs, it’s the final point that’s remembered which is why the Celtics and Jayson Tatum were feeling pretty good after Tatum’s jumper with 5.7 seconds left lifted Boston to an 89-88 win over the Sixers.

Fultz, who finished with 16 points, got another crack at carrying Philadelphia to victory only to have his up-and-under shot attempt blocked by Jaylen Brown.

Even though Brown (29 points, 13 rebounds) was easily the best player on the floor for either team, the story of the night centered on the play of Fultz and Tatum.

Having come up through the AAU circuit having competed against each other previously, Tatum knew that Sunday’s game would be in the eyes of many, a big deal because of him and Fultz.

But Tatum refused to let the white noise that hyped up their matchup, affect his play.

“Me and Markelle have known each other a long time from high school, played against each other, all-star games,” Tatum said. “We finally reached our dream and I’m pretty sure we’ll compete against each other for a long time.”

While the Celtics were certainly pleased with the outcome, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was more focused on how Tatum played and not necessarily what stats he registered.

“The most important thing is playing hard and getting a feel for our system,” Stevens said prior to the game. “Whatever happens today, I don’t care with regard to stat line and those type of things. It’s more, ‘are you getting one step closer to being what you need to be to help our team next year?’”

Brown was among the many Celtics impressed with Tatum’s performance, showing an uncanny cool and calmness you don’t see often in rookies let alone 19-year-old ones.

“I told Jayson, ‘take a deep breath, breathe,’” Brown said.

A year ago, Brown was exactly where Tatum was – the No. 3 pick trying to prove himself to his older teammates and to the rest of the league.

“Last year when I was in his spot I was so nervous,” said Brown who repeatedly attacked the rim in his summer league debut a year ago and went to the free throw line but struggled to make shots. “I think I shot 17 free throws and I only had like 15 points. I was so nervous. I could see it in his eyes, he was nervous early.”

Tatum acknowledged he did have some butterflies at the start of the game.

But as it progressed, he calmed down.

And when it mattered most, Tatum was as clutch as they come.

“He has this old soul … he doesn’t get rattled,” said Celtics assistant coach Jerome Allen who is coaching the team’s summer league squad in Salt Lake City. “Just kind of plays at his pace, like he’s been here before, at 19.”

And down the stretch, Tatum was pleased that the coaching staff had enough confidence in him to take – and make – his first game-winning shot.

“It put a lot of pressure on me, to take the shot,” Tatum said. “But that’s what summer league is for; to learn some things, if I would have made it or miss it.”

Jayson Tatum comes up big vs Paul George, Thunder

Jayson Tatum comes up big vs Paul George, Thunder

BOSTON – Jayson Tatum had another strong performance for the Boston Celtics, doing so against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Paul George, a player Tatum has acknowledged on more than one occasion he has looked up to. 

That admiration didn’t get in the way of Tatum delivering a big-time performance in helping Boston rally from six points down with 12.7 seconds to play, to knock off the Thunder 100-99.

Tatum tallied a double-double of 23 points and 11 rebounds. And doing so at 20 years and 17 days old, Tatum became the youngest player in franchise history to tally at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in the same game.

“It feels good,” Tatum said when asked about his first 20-plus point, 10-plus rebound game in the NBA. “But honestly, I’m just glad we won. That was a big win against a great team and it was fun playing out there today.”

Impacting the game on multiple levels offensively along with being a defensive and rebounding force are qualities often associated with George who became familiar with Tatum prior to last June’s NBA draft which is when the Celtics selected him with the third overall pick. 

“I reached out to him before he was coming into this draft and I got to talk to him,” said George, who had 24 points and a game-high 13 rebounds against the Celtics. “It’s an honor when you see young talent. I‘ve been inspired by many in this league so it’s great to inspire the younger generation in this league.”

And while Tatum may be young, he continues to prove himself up for whatever challenges await him. 

“We are going to keep throwing to the wolves and keep going to him in those moments,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.

Boston closed out the game with an 8-1 spurt in the final 24.7 seconds, with Tatum either scoring or assisting on five of those points which includes assistant on Marcus Morris’ game-winner.

Tatum’s composure down the stretch comes from being influenced by many, including George who considers it “an honor” that Tatum holds him in high regard. 

“At the end of the day, us veteran guys want the younger guys to take the game further and advance much farther than what I was,” George said. “There’s going to be kids looking up to Jayson (Tatum) that are probably already looking up to Jayson (Tatum).”


NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Kyrie Irving getting second opinion on injured knee

NBC Sports Boston Photo

NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Kyrie Irving getting second opinion on injured knee

1:15 - A. Sherrod Blakely joins Gary Tanguay and Trenni Kusnierek to discuss Kyrie Irving getting a second opinion on his injured knee and what the Kyrie’s options are for the remainder of the season.

5:53 - Kyle Draper and Brian Scalabrine break down the Celtics stunning last second comeback win over the Thunder with multiple key players sitting out.

10:27 - Tom Curran and Jerod Mayo stop by Early Edition to play a game of Fill in the Blank that involves Gronkowski’s contract and the Patriots best offseason acquisition.