Celtics

Kawhi Leonard praises Jayson Tatum after Celtics star's epic game vs. Clippers

Kawhi Leonard praises Jayson Tatum after Celtics star's epic game vs. Clippers

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum showed the NBA world he is ready for superstardom Thursday night in a career performance against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Tatum dropped 39 points and played fantastic defense to lift the Celtics to a 141-133 victory in double overtime at TD Garden. Perhaps the most impressive part of Tatum's epic game was his success against one of the league's best players in Kawhi Leonard.

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Leonard is the reigning NBA Finals MVP and arguably the game's premier two-way player. Tatum had his way against Leonard at both ends of the court. He shot 3-for-3 (1-for-1 from 3-point range) with two free throws for nine points when Leonard was his primary defender. The Celtics star guarded Leonard on 24 defensive possessions and held the Clippers forward to 4-for-12 shooting and just eight points. Leonard shot a lackluster 1-for-6 versus Tatum in the overtime periods.

Here's what Leonard said about Tatum's performance and overall improvement following Boston's victory.

Tatum looked like a future top 10 player following a tremendous rookie season. After a somewhat disappointing sophomore campaign, Tatum has quickly re-established himself as one of the league's best young players and a future superstar. His ability to dominate games at both ends of the floor against elite teams is not common, and it's a talent only a select few players possess. 

Tatum will make his first NBA All-Star appearance Sunday night at just 21 years old. It's another milestone in what's shaping up to be a transformative season for the Celtics forward.

Blakely: Hayward quietly as clutch as ever in C's win

Grant Williams describes meeting Bill Russell at Celtics-Lakers game

Grant Williams describes meeting Bill Russell at Celtics-Lakers game

Any time the Boston Celtics play in Los Angeles, there are bound to be celebrities in the crowd. The Celtics and the Lakers have arguably the greatest rivalry in NBA history, after all, so watching them square off is a must-see event when both teams are good.

But on Sunday afternoon, there was one famous person in the crowd that caught the attention of Celtics rookie Grant Williams. That would be Celtics legend and 11-time NBA champion, Bill Russell.

Russell appeared at the game to watch the Celtics in action, but also wore a jersey to honor the late Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna. And evidently, Williams took some time to talk to Russell at halftime.

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After the contest, Williams communicated what his message to the NBA great was.

“I just wanted to thank him for everything he’s done for the game,” Williams said per Tom Westerholm of MassLive.com. “I said I was thankful, because he was so impactful. He was a dude who was one of the best players in the game, a historic Boston legend, and honestly it was just good to see him in person for the first time. You see all the celebrities in LA and all this stuff, but I was more focused on Bill Russell than anybody else. Denzel was there, all those other guys, but Bill was special.”

And Williams also communicated that getting a chance to play in a Celtics-Lakers rivalry game in front of one of the best players of all-time was "really cool".

“It was really cool, especially a game of that magnitude and intensity,” Williams said. “Lakers vs. Celtics, something that one of the biggest rivalries in sports and playing against LeBron, it was fun. It was a competitive environment. Hopefully he enjoyed it.”

It's really nice to see that Williams truly appreciates NBA history and one of the greatest Celtics of all-time. He will surely remember this moment for a long time.

During his rookie season, Williams is averaging 3.7 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.0 assist per game while playing 15.5 minutes off the bench. The 2019 first-round pick could play a key role as a small-ball center for the squad as they gear up for a playoff run.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Trail Blazers, which begins Tuesday at 9 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 10 p.m. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.

LeBron James congratulates Jayson Tatum on Instagram for 41-point game

LeBron James congratulates Jayson Tatum on Instagram for 41-point game

Jayson Tatum is starting to emerge as one of the NBA's young superstars. And his performance on Sunday against the Los Angeles Lakers only fueled the hype surrounding him over the course of the past month.

The Boston Celtics forward had one of the best outings of his career on Sunday. He tied a career-high with 41 points and did everything he could to help keep the Celtics alive against the Lakers. They couldn't ultimately pull off the win, but losing by just two without Kemba Walker's services was certainly impressive.

Tatum did a lot to power the C's and keep them in the game. And some of his most notable peers took notice of his performance.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

After Tatum's excellent outing, Lakers forward LeBron James posted to Instagram to congratulate and encourage Tatum. Here's a look at James' post.

That's a decent gesture from James, and it's one that Tatum won't soon forget. And neither will he forget the seemingly emotional embrace the two shared after the tightly contested contest ground to an end.

It's also worth noting that Tatum did play as part of Team LeBron at NBA All-Star weekend. So, they likely connected there and it sure seems that James, who drafted Tatum in the All-Star captains' fantasy draft, admires the young star's game.

Over his past 10 games since returning from a groin injury, Tatum has averaged 28.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game for the Celtics. If he keeps producing at that clip, it'll be great news for the team's hopes of being a playoff contender.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Trail Blazers, which begins Tuesday at 9 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 10 p.m. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.