The Boston Celtics surged back from 17 points down to force overtime against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night, thanks in large part to the efforts of Jayson Tatum.
The All-Star forward put the team on his back, scoring a career-high 53 points — 35 of which came in the second half and overtime. The Celtics went on to come away victorious, topping the Timberwolves 145-136. Tatum’s career night not only helped the Cs move within striking distance of the fourth seed in the East, but it also gave his mother some ammunition to fire back at his haters.
“WE don’t want none of that fake love,” Brandy Cole tweeted. “Keep that same energy YALL had a few days ago. YALL know how YALL are. #AlwaysHisBiggestFan.”
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Tatum Was Highly Criticized Over the Past Week
Cole’s take of course comes on the heels of quite a whirlwind week for her son when it comes to his perception within the media. After an ugly 106-96 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday, the Tatum criticism emerged out of the woodwork.
Ex-Celtics NBA champion Kendrick Perkins questioned Tatum’s body language and swagger following the loss to Philly via both social media and postgame comments.
“When you look at all the other stars around the league, they compete, they compete, they compete,” Perkins stated on NBC Sports Boston’s Celtics Postgame Live. “They don’t have bad body language. They’re enthusiastic. They’re supporting their teammates. They’re always talking to their teammates. And it’s part of him I guess growing, but you’ve got to have that. You have to learn those leadership skills.”
WEEI’s Gary Tanguay took his criticism of Tatum much further, essentially voicing his desire to wipe his hands clean of the Celtics star.
“Tatum’s player option is in 2025,” Tanguay tweeted. “This means in two years he forces his way out town – that’s the NBA. He can take a hike as far as I am concerned.”
Tatum Reacts to Career Night
With his 53-point showing on Friday, Tatum became the first Celtics player since Isaiah Thomas to top the 50-point threshold. The now-New Orleans Pelicans guard dropped 53 points during a playoff game against the Washington Wizards in 2017.
“Scoring 50 is a big thing in this league, and especially at this age,” Tatum said, still just 23 years old. “It’ll be a night I always remember. First 50-point game and we got the win on top of that. Big win. Every win right now is big.”
Tatum was dominant in nearly every facet against Minnesota. He was highly efficient, shooting 16-of-25 from the field, while also knocking down 60% of his shots from beyond the arc. He also added 10 rebounds and four assists for good measure.
Yet, one of the most notable aspects of his performance was the willingness and tenacity he showed attacking the rim. Tatum attempted a season-high 16 free throws on the night, knocking down all but one.
The Celtics forward addressed his aggressiveness following the game: “Attacking a little bit more,” Tatum noted. “Then just knowing the bonus situation. We got them in the bonus a little bit early in a couple of those quarters.”
“He just wouldn’t let us lose,” Stevens said.
“Tatum was super special tonight, and that’s coming off of a heavy-minute night the night before,” Stevens added. “Don’t mistake his quiet demeanor for not being a competitor. He is a competitor.”
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