Celtics-Nets takeaways: Tatum outduels Durant in shootout


The Boston Celtics earned their third consecutive victory Sunday as they held off the Brooklyn Nets in a thriller, 126-120.

It was a back-and-forth game at TD Garden but another outstanding performance from Jayson Tatum gave Boston the edge. The All-Star forward dropped a season-high 54 points to mark the fourth 50-point outing of his young career.

All five of the Celtics' starters scored in double figures including Jaylen Brown, who contributed 21 points in his return from injury. Marcus Smart added 14 points and nine assists on his 28th birthday.

Kevin Durant, who returned Thursday from a sprained MCL that kept him sidelined since Jan. 15, notched 37 points and eight assists. Former Celtics guard Kyrie Irving had 19 points and dished six assists in front of an unwelcoming TD Garden crowd.

Forsberg: Nine thoughts on contender C's and superstar Tatum

Here are three instant takeaways from the Celtics' win, which brings them to 39-27 on the campaign. They'll head to Charlotte to take on the Hornets on Wednesday night.

Jayson Tatum outduels Kevin Durant

The Nets didn't have Durant for their last two meetings with the Celtics, in which they lost by a combined 58 points. The 12-time All-Star was back in the mix Sunday and was a difference-maker with 37 points on 12-of-21 shooting.

The Durant-Irving combo was a challenge for the usually-stout C's defense, but Tatum outshined them both to lead Boston to victory. His 54 points were the second-most of his career (60 vs. San Antonio Spurs last season), and his fourth 50-point game ties the legendary Larry Bird for such performances with the Celtics.

WATCH: Jayson Tatum drops 54 points vs. Brooklyn Nets

After a 20-point first-half, Tatum returned from the locker room to drop another 34 points (10-17 FG, 4-7 3-PT) in 22 second-half minutes. The TD Garden crowd rained MVP chants on Tatum as he shot free throws in the final minute of the hard-fought victory.

"He don't even know his ceiling," Tatum's teammate Robert Williams said after the game. "Great player, great teammate and when you got leaders like that it's easy to follow.

Tatum's latest scoring outburst marked his third straight game with at least 33 points. It was his 21st game with 30 points or more this season. The Celtics own a 16-5 record in those games.

As for Durant, the all-time great tallied his 25,000th career NBA point to become the 23rd player in league history to reach that impressive milestone.

Jaylen Brown's ankle looks healthy

Brown suffered a right ankle sprain on Tuesday that kept him out of Thursday's win over the Memphis Grizzlies. He shook off some early rust to produce a clutch performance in the win.

The 25-year-old finished with 21 points (8-17 FG, 3-6 3-PT) and five assists while giving the C's 35 minutes. One of his biggest shots of the day was a 3-pointer with 40 seconds left that proved to be the dagger.

Brown was a game-time decision for Sunday's showdown, but it looks like there's no need to worry about his ankle going forward. And as long as he and Tatum stay healthy, this Celtics team certainly looks like a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference.

Rob Williams shines on national stage

Before Tuesday's game vs. the Atlanta Hawks, NBA great and TNT analyst Shaquille O'Neal claimed to not know who Robert Williams is. Well, the Celtics big man sure made his presence felt on a national stage on Sunday.

In a game that didn't feature a whole lot of defense, Williams was an exception. The 24-year-old had five blocks -- all in the first half -- to go along with 10 points, eight rebounds and two steals.

Williams has been key to Boston's success these last couple of months and undoubtedly has become one of the team's most important players. It's only a matter of time until Shaq and the rest of the NBA world will take notice.