Bradley Beal

Bradley Beal's historic game vs. Celtics didn't stop Jayson Tatum's trash talk

Bradley Beal's historic game vs. Celtics didn't stop Jayson Tatum's trash talk

BOSTON -- Jayson Tatum has been battling Bradley Beal since high school, so he knows all of the St. Louis native's tricks.

Beal used all of them Wednesday night.

The Wizards guard exploded for 44 points on 17-of-27 shooting in Washington's 140-133 loss to the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. For context, Beal is just the sixth NBA player to score 44 points or more at the new Garden since it opened in 1995.

A few of Beal's buckets came against Tatum, a fellow St. Louis native who looked to Beal as a "big brother" growing up and now works out with the All-Star guard every summer.

But even as Beal lit up the Celtics, Tatum found a way to trash-talk his close friend and mentor by fixating on one of Beal's rare misses with Tatum guarding him in isolation.

"(He did a) between the legs, between the legs into a stepback -- I knew that s--- was coming -- and he missed it," Tatum recalled after the game. "So I told him, 'He don't really score on me 1-on-1. He's gotta use a screen.' "

Take your victories where you can get them, right?

Tatum isn't naive, though. When asked if his familiarity with Beal's game makes it easier to guard the two-time All-Star, Tatum responded:

"I mean, he still had 44. St. Louis guys can hoop. That's what it is."

Tatum didn't elevate to Beal's level Wednesday night but still did plenty of hooping, dropping 23 points on 9-of-20 shooting to put Monday's 1-for-18 performance in his rearview mirror.

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Warriors, which tips off Friday at 9:30 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 10:30 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

Celtics' Kemba Walker on Jayson Tatum's bounce-back game: 'There'll be a lot more big games for that guy'

Celtics' Kemba Walker on Jayson Tatum's bounce-back game: 'There'll be a lot more big games for that guy'

BOSTON -- The final numbers for Jayson Tatum in Boston’s 140-133 win over Washington - 23 points on 9-for-19 shooting - are not going to inspire any “M-V-P” chants or anything like that. 

“Better than one-for-eighteen,” said a grinning Tatum, referring to the horrendous shooting performance he had in Boston’s win over Dallas on Monday. 

Tatum has had some off nights shooting this season, but the woeful performance against Dallas was historically bad. It was only the ninth time in NBA history that a player shot that poorly while taking 18 shots from the field. 

Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal, who knows Tatum better than anyone else in the NBA, said going into the game Wednesday night that the third-year forward was going to have a solid bounce-back performance. 

Beal said he anticipated Tatum would come out, “gunning. I know it.”

He added, “He forgot about that game and is looking forward to this one.”

He was right. 

Tatum didn’t take long to get it going offensively against the Wizards (2-7), scoring 11 points in the first quarter alone on 5-for-9 shooting from the field. 

Hitting up the practice facility within hours of the Mavericks game on Monday was part of Tatum’s put-that-one-behind-me program that as we saw against Washington on Wednesday, worked pretty well. 

When asked why he went to the practice facility right after the Dallas game, Tatum replied, “Just see some shots go in, really. Try to get my mind off the game and get back in a rhythm.”

Kemba Walker said he spoke with Tatum shortly before the game. 

“I told him, ‘You know, every night is not going to be the best night. It’s all about the bounce back,’” Walker recalled. “And he bounced back tonight. It was a huge game; a big game from him.”

It was important not only for the Celtics to continue on their winning ways, but also for Tatum’s growth into someone that many believe will eventually rank among the best in the NBA. 

“He’s a special talent,” Walker said. “I’m excited [about] the way he handled tonight’s game.”

Beal echoed similar sentiments about his fellow St. Louis native who also attended the same high school (Chaminade College Prep) as Beal years later.

“He’s a star, man; a star in the making,” Beal, who dropped 44 points on the Celtics, said of Tatum. “It’s amazing to be a part of his life, to see him grow every year to where he is now.”

The 26-year-old Beal has been an All-Star each of the last two seasons, so he knows all too well how challenging it can be to make that leap from being a good player, which is where Tatum is now, to being an All-Star, which Tatum has not been coy about as being one of his many goals. 

“He’s going to continue to get better. He’s going to hit bumps in the road,” Beal said. “He’s going to go through adversity. That’s just going to make him better and stronger.”

And seeing him up close now, Walker has gained a greater appreciation for not just Tatum’s talent but the amount of time he puts into his game to get better. 

“From his first season, watching from afar, and now being his teammate, I love the way he works on off days to improve his game,” Walker said. “We need that kid; we need him a lot. We need him to score big points for us and we need him to take on those challenges. There’ll be a lot more big games for that guy.”

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Warriors, which tips off Friday at 9:30 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 10:30 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

Bittersweet return for Isaiah Thomas against his former Celtics team

Bittersweet return for Isaiah Thomas against his former Celtics team

BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas has proclaimed his love for the city of Boston time and time again. 

But when it comes to facing his former Celtics teammates, who have shown tremendous growth since he was traded, well, that’s another story. 

“As a competitor, I hate it,” Thomas said. “But to see them jelling how they are and playing the best basketball of any team in the NBA right now, you have to take your hats off to them. They have great players, a great coaching staff that’s putting them in position to be successful.”

The Wizards became the latest to find this out the hard way as the Celtics extended their winning streak to nine following a 140-133 victory over Washington. 

Boston (9-1) will begin a five-game Western trip on Friday night against the Golden State Warriors as they hit the road with the best record in the NBA. 

Having that kind of status was something Thomas felt could happen during his time in Boston which included him being named an All-Star in back-to-back seasons. 

But a significant hip injury and a slow recovery time derailed what was shaping up to be a promising future for the last player selected in the 2011 NBA draft. 

Now Thomas finds himself back on the grind trying to prove that the player he was in Boston, can be resurrected in Washington. 

Wednesday’s game, while not ending the way Thomas wanted, was indeed a step in the right direction. 

Thomas finished with 18 points on 7-for-14 shooting along with seven assists.

But considering how dominant a scorer he was while in Boston, Thomas knows he’ll have to string together many more games like that before he will truly be back to the player he once was. 

“It’s tough because I want it all back right now,” Thomas said. “But I can’t skip any steps. I have to take it one day at a time. I’ve been doing that. This opportunity has been good for me; coach [Scott Brooks] believes in me, my teammates believe in me and that’s all that matters.”

Thomas has been a favorite of head coach Brad Stevens since he left, and has remained close to a number of his teammates including Marcus Smart. 

“I.T. was a great teammate,” Smart recently told NBC Sports Boston. “Going through all that he has gone through, not just playing but with life, you want to see him do well, you want to see him succeed.

Smart added with a grin, “but you want to beat him, too.”

And that is what made Wednesday’s game a bittersweet one for Thomas. 

Even though Washington (2-7) has one of the worst records in the NBA, Thomas came into Wednesday’s game confident that he could play well and that Washington would find a way to get the victory. 

For most of the game, the Wizards stayed within striking distance and even played with a lead from time to time. 

In addition to Thomas, Washington also got a big game from All-Star guard Bradley Beal, who led all scorers with 44 points.  

“It felt good to be out there,” Thomas, visibly disappointed, said shortly after the loss. “But I just want to win. We didn’t get the job and that was the most important thing. But overall it felt good to be back and play some meaningful minutes.”

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Warriors, which tips off Friday at 9:30 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 10:30 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.