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."— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) February 14, 2020
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.