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.
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.
Kawhi Leonard on Jayson Tatum's growth and improvement: "I mean, he's just more assertive. They're giving him the ball. They trust him, he trusts himself and he's doing his thing."
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.
The Rockets took Game 5 in Houston to send the series back to Boston, but they weren't prepared for Larry Bird, whose magnificent performance in Game 6 (29 points, 11 rebounds, 12 assists) helped the C's earn a 114-97 win and clinch their 16th NBA championship.
Our re-broadcast of Celtics-Rockets airs Friday at 7 p.m. ET, and if watching Bird at the height of his powers wasn't entertaining enough, former Celtics center Bill Walton will join Brian Scalabrine throughout the night to provide color commentary.
Kobe Bryant will forever be remembered as one of the fiercest competitors in sports history. That unmatched competitiveness was amplified whenever his Los Angeles Lakers faced off against their archrival, the Boston Celtics.
Two months after the Lakers fell to the C's in the 2008 NBA Finals, Bryant headed to China to take part in the Summer Olympics. There, he helped the United States earn its first gold medal since 2000.
But the sting from his loss to the Celtics overshadowed the euphoria of his Olympics victory.
WNBA star Sue Bird, who also was in China for the '08 Games, told a great story about witnessing Bryant's competitive attitude while drinking wine and playing card games with him that summer.
“He was fresh off [the Finals loss] and you could tell [he was still thinking it]” Bird told Los Angeles Sparks star and ESPN analyst Chiney Ogwuimike.“… [We were] just kicking it and he saw this newspaper — it was something about the Lakers series and blah blah blah — and there was a picture of Paul Pierce celebrating.
“And he didn’t say a word. He didn’t say anything. But we saw him take the paper. He started cutting out the Paul Pierce picture. He folded it up and put it in his pocket and was like, ‘Motivation.’ And we were like, ‘Oh, it never stops with him.’ And you can tell.”
There never will be another player like the "Black Mamba."
Bryant tragically passed away in a helicopter crash on January 26 along with his daughter, Gianna, and seven others. He was 41 years old.
You can listen to Pierce reminisce about the C's Finals win over the Lakers in the Celtics Talk Podcast below: