On February 4, Jayson Tatum was named to his third consecutive All-Star team. Just 24 hours later, the Celtics star was pouring in a game-high 24 points to lead Boston to a nine-point victory over the Detroit Pistons. The win marked the team’s fourth in a row — a season-high — and has the C’s riding high with the All-Star break looming.
However, Tatum’s strong showing in the Motor City didn’t start out all too rosy. In fact, the Pistons kept the St. Louis native in check through the first 24 minutes of play, as Tatum ended the first half with just five points on 2-of-8 shooting. Then, for some godforsaken reason, former Celtics assistant coach turned Pistons assistant Jerome Allen decided to poke the bear.
Tatum Responds to Allen
“He told me I had only five points and he said, ‘Yo, you might as well put a coach’s polo [shirt] on tonight’,” Tatum noted of Allen’s comments in the postgame.
As for Tatum’s response? “I was like, ‘All right, I got something for you,’” he recalled to reporters, smiling. And boy, did he ever. The provoked standout forward went on to score 19 of his 28 points in the third quarter to extend Boston’s lead to 22 points heading into the fourth.
Allen, 49, spent six seasons (2015-2021) working as a top assistant under Brad Stevens. However, when Stevens moved upstairs to an exec role this past summer, Allen fled Boston for an assistant gig in Detroit.
“We obviously miss [Allen], especially the guys that built a relationship with him [during his tenure in Boston],” Tatum said of his former assistant coach via Mass Live. “But we were happy to beat him because we wouldn’t have heard the last of it if we lost.”
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Celtics Getting Hot
It may have taken longer than they had hoped, but Boston looks to finally be hitting their stride. Winners of six of their last seven games, the Celtics currently sit just one game behind the reeling Nets for sixth-place in the East.
“We’re coming out with the right focus from the start,” head coach Ime Udoka told reporters of Boston’s recent surge after the win over Detroit. “Obviously, 31 points (allowed) in the first half, 16-of-50 (shooting by Detroit) in the first three quarters… we guarded extremely well for the most part of the game until the end there, obviously. But coming out with the right mindset on both ends of the floor, having good carryover, and showing more consistency.”
One of the players that has played a pivotal part in the Celtics’ turnaround has been center Rob Williams. The young big man has been a near walking double-double of late, averaging 9.8 points and 11.5 rebounds over his last six games. Against the Pistons, Williams shot a perfect 5-for-5 from the field, upping his field-goal percentage to 73.8% on the season. Still, despite his brilliance, Time Lord is shedding the praise onto his teammates.
“I think our older guys are doing a great job before games in the locker room just keeping a great energy, talking to us. JB (Jaylen Brown), (Marcus) Smart, Al (Horford),” Williams said, via Celtics.com. “All of them are doing a great job preparing us before we even go out on the court. So when you got your main players fired up and they’re talking in your ear, you gotta follow their lead.”