For the most part, the Brooklyn Nets made easy work of the Boston Celtics in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, claiming the series victory in just five games. Yet, while the Cs — as a whole — proved no match for the Nets’ big three, superstar Jayson Tatum still got his. The two-time All-Star averaged 30.6 points per game in the series, including a 50-point outing in Game 3.
Tatum’s efforts did not go unnoticed, specifically by the man readily tasked with the duty of covering him, Nets forward Kevin Durant. A shoo-in Hall of Famer, Durant has dominated the NBA hardwood for nearly a decade and a half. Over that span, he’s also gotten a front-row seat to witness some of the best players the league has ever had to offer. And he believes Tatum, at just 23-years-old, is already firmly cemented in that category.
“I’ve been in the league for 13, 14 years, and I started to tally mark matchups and series and the players I’ve played against,” Durant said on his podcast The ETCs with Kevin Durant. “When I have conversations with my friends I’m like ‘Oh, I’ve had playoff series against Kobe, LeBron, Tim Duncan, the Memphis Grizzlies,’ like — Jayson Tatum is in that conversation now because he’s that elite level of player already at 23 and I’m like ‘Alright, I can see where this is going.'”
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KD on Tatum: ‘It Was an Honor to Play Against Him’
Durant noted that he believes he did a “solid job” of guarding Tatum, especially considering what a truly “tough cover” the St. Louis native has become over his four-year NBA career.
“Jayson Tatum, I mean guarding him the whole playoffs — he’s shifty with it,” Durant said. “He got long arms too so it’s like you don’t want to up the three, you know? ‘Cause he can get hot and that’s how their team gets going but he’s just so good off the dribble. He give you five or six dribbles, hesitations, and then he’s so long to get to the cup that he can finish over bigs. He a tough, tough cover.”
“It was an honor to play against him… He has it all scoring-wise,” Durant noted. “At this point for him, it’s just about continuing to learn the game and how the game’s supposed to be played. He’s making good passes. Being asked to do so much is only going to make him better.”
Durant’s high praise eventually made its way to Tatum, who took to Twitter to respond to the segment.
Durant: ‘I Hate That We’re in the Same Conference’
We’ll never know how much of an impact Jaylen Brown could have played in possibly shifting the outcome of the series. With that said, the loss of Tatum’s running mate certainly diminished Boston’s legitimacy as a true threat to the Nets. Yet, Durant knows that moving forward, with a healthy Brown and a budding Tatum at the Celtics’ disposal, Brooklyn will have its hands full for years to come.
“I know Jaylen (Brown) was out this series, but having a guy like Jayson and saying ‘For us to have a chance to win this game, you’ve got to have a high number of points for us.’ And he went out there and made it a point after Game 2 to be aggressive to the rim and to get to his spot. I respect him,” Durant proclaimed.
“I hate that we’re in the same conference,” he added with a chuckle. “‘Cause I know as he starts to get older and their team, you know, we’re going to be battling with them year in and year out.”