PHILADELPHIA – Jayson Tatum was on the bench with early foul trouble, a first for him in this series.
When he drove to the basket, he was often hammered to the floor with no call being made.
And so he would rise . . . again . . . and again . . . and again.
The 20-year-old Tatum continues to play at a level no one anticipated this quickly, delivering yet another impressive scoring game in Boston’s 101-98 overtime win against Philadelphia.
Tatum led all scorers with 24 points on 11-for-17 shooting in addition to having a game-high plus/minus of +24.
It’s the fifth straight playoff game Tatum has scored at least 20 points, showcasing his growth as a big-time scorer that the Sixers have yet to figure out how to slow down.
“JT has something to prove every single night,” Boston’s Shane Larkin told NBC Sports Boston. “Ever since the first game of the season when Gordon (Hayward) went down, everybody wrote us off. They’re (Celtics) gonna have to get contributions from their young wings, JB (Jaylen Brown) and JT.
Larkin added, “JT’s growing every single game, taking responsibilities . . . he steps up to the challenge and that’s a testament to his mentality. He wants to be the best and he has all the ability to be the best. He just has to continue to work, continue to strive to be the best. The ceiling for that guy is unreal.”
There’s no denying how Boston has given Tatum a lot more free reign offensively to decide what to do, with the ball in his hands.
Often he’ll look to attack a mismatch, or use his matchup to set up a teammate for a scoring opportunity.
He has become a major matchup problem for a Sixers team that was among the better teams defensively this past season and boasts one of the better perimeter defenders in Robert Covington.
Philadelphia has gone big, small, athletic . . . nothing has worked defensively to slow Tatum down.
And while one might think that Brad Stevens has done a little extra to prepare Tatum for this moment where he’s a go-to scorer for Boston most nights, Stevens has made it clear that he has kept things relatively simple.
“Just call the play and get out of his way,” Stevens said. “I don't know what else to say. He knows what to do and he has the mentality to do it. It doesn't mean it is always going to go in, it doesn't mean that he's always going to go 11-for-17.”
One of the few blots on Tatum’s strong night was that he missed three of his four free-throw attempts.
“I can guarantee he isn't going to miss three free throws in a row very often,” Stevens said before adding, “but the way I look at it is the law of averages means he will make a lot in a row.”