NBC Sports

Steph-Tatum battle one for the ages in Warriors-Celtics

NBC Sports
Jayson Tatum and Steph Curry

There was blood on the floor at TD Garden late Saturday night. Of course, there was.

Steph Curry had spent 37 minutes shooting holes in the Boston Celtics and Jayson Tatum had done the same, over 40 minutes, to the Warriors.

So, there had to be carnage, something to bring additional drama to a game that already had it in excess.

And it came in the fourth quarter when Curry tweaked his left ankle yet ignored the pain long enough to play through the stirring finish of a 119-114 loss.

Roughly a minute after Curry rolled his ankle came the blood, belonging to Juan Toscano-Anderson. In the process of saving a loose ball -- that led to a Curry 3-pointer -- JTA tumbled headfirst over the scorer’s table, landing where concrete meets metal.

After several minutes, he got up with some assistance and walked into the locker room holding a towel to his head, covering a cut that would require stitching. Toscano-Anderson was diagnosed with a concussion and will be out indefinitely.

JTA’s agony barely dimmed the glow of Curry and Tatum, whose point-counterpoint shooting was magnificent enough to inspire teammates, coaches, dogs, cats, hoop lovers and maybe a few inanimate objects.

Pretty much everybody except Draymond Green, whose initial delight was restricted by allegiances to Curry and defense in general.

“I don't really enjoy watching the back-and-forth,” Green said, “because I'm always thinking of how to get a stop.”

 

Getting stops on Curry and Tatum on this night was the exception. Their scoring was the norm. Curry finished with 47 points, going 15-of-27 from the field, including 11-of-19 from distance. Tatum’s response was 44 points, 

“I’m in awe of what I watched tonight,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “From the skill level and level of competition, it felt like a playoff game out there. Both teams were just gassed and competed like crazy, with just incredible shot-making, particularly from Steph and Jayson.

“What a basketball game.”

Curry and Tatum seemed to push each other to greater and greater heights. They made a few open shots. They made shots when guarded and when guarded even tighter. On six occasions, there were direct responses, one getting a bucket seconds after the other.

“I was just trying to do everything in my power,” Tatum said. "And, clearly, he was doing the same. He was hitting some incredible shots that in the moment you’ve got to tip your cap.”

Other players on each team seemed energized by the magic of the moment, two great players throwing thunder in a prime-time national TV game in which both the Warriors and Celtics brought win streaks.

The guards, in particular, went after each other. Jordan Poole and Kent Bazemore combined for 28 points for the Warriors, with Celtics Marcus Smart and Payton Pritchard coming back with 27.

“The energy and competitiveness across the board -- it wasn’t just me and him -- it was a playoff-type atmosphere,” Curry said. “You could feel a different vibe in that back-and-forth. Everybody’s level is raised. The competitiveness. The energy. And when you see somebody go off like that, you start to feel good and try to meet the moment. It’s a good feeling to be in that type of back-and-forth.”

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In the end, the two men, like great fighters after a championship war in the ring, shared an embrace and a few words.

“Two big performances,” Tatum said. “I was glad that we got the win. He’s one of the all-time greats. Just to earn his respect and get a win on the same night, it’s a good night.”

Though Draymond wanted no part of defeat, he respected the work Tatum, his faux foe in the Subway TV ads, gave the Warriors.

“Incredible,” Green said. “Big-boy performance, especially without [injured Celtics teammate] Jaylen Brown. He stepped up and put them on his back. But, yeah, my sub is still better, though.”

This game, and the invigorating performances of Curry and Tatum, probably brought tears of joy to the NBA offices. And, frankly, they were better than any sandwich either Green or Tatum could pitch.

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