On Friday night, Jayson Tatum played what was likely his best game as a member of the Boston Celtics. He dropped 53 points against the Minnesota Timberwolves and helped will the Celtics to a 145-136 win in overtime.
Tatum became the youngest Celtic to score 50+ points in a game, and he became the first player to reach the 53-point mark since Isaiah Thomas did it back in May of 2017.
After the game, Brad Stevens acknowledged that Tatum's performance "was super special" and compared it to the many games in which Thomas willed the Celtics to win.
"It was a lot like what I recall about Isaiah on so many occasions. He just wouldn't let us lose," Stevens said to reporters after the game. "Tatum was like that. When we were coming back in the third, you could see he had it."
Tatum certainly did have it, as he posted 35 of his 53 points during the second half and overtime of the game, shot 64 percent from the field, and 60 percent from beyond the arc. He helped the C's erase a 17-point deficit and when the team needed timely baskets, he was able to deliver.
Additionally, Stevens praised Tatum's willingness to play off the ball and make passes during the overtime period. He credited Tatum for helping to get open looks for Kemba Walker to help the C's pull away from the T'Wolves and earn the much-needed win ahead of their three-game road trip.
The C's coach also praised Tatum's competitive spirit in the game as well and noted that while he may not be the loudest player, he is always looking to compete.
The comparison to Thomas is not one that will be taken lightly, nor should it be. Thomas was, in many ways, the ultimate competitor during his brief time in Boston. He was clutch late in games, became an MVP candidate, established himself as a fan-favorite, and helped the Celtics overachieve and become winners.
Tatum won't always put forth scoring numbers like this, but if he can help will the C's to victory and play as hard as he did tonight, that will be a key step in his development. And it will go a long way toward helping the C's emerge as a contender.