The Boston Celtics may not be exactly where they once thought they would be at this point in the season, but things are clearly looking up in Beantown. Entering Monday night’s action, the team ranked fourth league-wide in net rating over its last 10 games, outscoring opponents by nearly eight points per 100 possessions.
As a result, the formerly-scuffling Celtics went 7-3 over that span and locked down impressive wins over the Milwaukee Bucks, Denver Nuggets and Charlotte Hornets in the process.
While a lot of things have fallen into place during Boston’s mini-turnaround, Jayson Tatum’s offensive brilliance may have been the key factor. In Friday’s overtime win over the Timberwolves, he was historically good. And the rest of his week was nothing to sneeze at, either.
In fact, Tatum performed at such a high level last week that the NBA officially recognized him as the Eastern Conference’s top dog over the last seven days.
Tatum Snags Weekly Award
Per an announcement from the NBA, Tatum has been named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week for games played April 5-11.
The two-time NBA All-Star and former No. 3 overall pick played in four games last week. Over that stretch, he averaged 31.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists per contest. He also connected on 48.8 percent of his shots from the field — including 38.9 percent from distance — and made 96.6 percent of his free throws.
As good as he was throughout the week, though, his numbers were definitely buoyed by his big night against the T-Wolves.
Tatum played 41 minutes in that game, hitting 16-of-25 shots (and six three-pointers) and scoring a career-high 53 points. In doing so, he helped his team turn a 17-point deficit into a nine-point, overtime win.
His scoring total was the highest single-game mark by any Celtics player since Larry Bird set a franchise record with a 60-point effort in 1985. By adding 10 boards in the game, Tatum also became the first Celtic to record 50-plus points and 10-plus rebounds in a game since Bird last did it in 1989.
In addition to the aforementioned wins over Minnesota and Denver, Boston also beat the New York Knicks. The Celtics’ sole loss last week came at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Stevens Compares Tatum’s Outburst to Vintage Isaiah
In the wake of Tatum’s incredible game against the Wolves, head coach Brad Stevens noted that the effort reminded him of some big-time efforts from a certain former Celtic. Namely, Isaiah Thomas.
Said Stevens, via Boston.com:
“It was a lot like what I recall about Isaiah on so many occasions, he just wouldn’t let us lose. And Tatum was like that,” Stevens told reporters, post-game. “When we were coming back in the third, you could see he had it. Guys did a good job finding him. I thought the key to winning the overtime was actually not only the first bucket, but then the recognition to get off the ball because they were sending so many guys to him.”
The praise didn’t stop there, either.
“Tatum was super special tonight,” Stevens said. “That’s coming off a heavy minute night the night before. Don’t mistake his quiet demeanor for not being a competitor. He is a competitor.”
In 2017, Thomas had a 53-point night of his own during a playoff bout with the Washington Wizards. As with Tatum’s big night, Thomas spearheaded a comeback from a sizable deficit to capture the win in overtime.