In terms of raw offensive production, All-Star forward Jayson Tatum has clearly been the leader on the floor for the Boston Celtics all season long. As strong as he has been in 2020-21, though, he has never been better than he was on Friday against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Tatum was historically good in what was undoubtedly his best game since turning pro. In 41 minutes of play, the 23-year-old dropped 53 points on 16-of-25 shooting, hitting six three-pointers and adding 10 rebounds, four assists and a blocked shot.
It was Boston’s highest individual point total since Larry Bird set a franchise record with 60 points during a 1985 game against the Atlanta Hawks.
As a result, the Celtics were able to come back from a 17-point deficit and, eventually, pull away from Karl-Anthony Towns and the T-Wolves in a 145-136 overtime thriller.
Curiously, though, a Celtics alum turned studio analyst seemingly attempted to take some of the credit for Tatum’s big night. It was a move that sparked outrage on social media.
Kendrick Perkins on Tatum’s Outburst
In the wake of Tatum’s performance, ESPN analyst Kendrick Perkins took to Twitter to shout out the incredible effort. However, in doing so, he also made a point to mention that he had previously critiqued the Celtics star, further indicating that the 53-point night was Tatum’s “response” to him.
“Called Jayson Tatum out about giving more and he didn’t get all sensitive and he heard me and responded like a true professional supposed to and had the best game of his young career…finishing with 53 spicy and 10 boards with W! Carry the hell on…”
While there were some fans that responded positively to Perkins’ tweet — a few even implored him to use his motivational tactics on Celtics coach Brad Stevens — his statement largely drew the ire of the Boston faithful.
“Ah yes! It was all you Perk,” responded one fan, facetiously. “He woke up this morning and said ‘Man I gotta get to work because of what Perk tweeted.’ Give me a break bro!”
Kedow Walker, who is the cousin of Celtics floor general Kemba Walker, was similarly unimpressed by Perkins’ assessment of the situation.
“A 5 point career scorer talkin greasy thinkin he motivating guys to put up numbers will never not be funny to me..” he tweeted. “They be forgetting that part where they was bums.”
Ainge on Perkins’ Hot Takes
After the Celtics were outclassed by the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday, Perkins had harsh words for Tatum. In his opinion, the two-time All-Star and 2020 All-NBA selection had displayed “the body language and energy level of an underpaid player.” He further indicated that Tatum was hurting his team with such behavior.
Whether or not those comments played some small part in pushing Tatum to greatness against the Wolves, Celtics GM Danny Ainge thinks his players are above being impacted by media opinions.
“I think Perk is paid to have opinions, and he’s out there and he’s giving a lot of opinions,” Ainge said, via NBC Sports Boston. “I love Perk. I hope those guys aren’t being impacted by things that people are saying that are media heads that are paid to give an opinion.”
“Hopefully they’re just talking it through [and] they don’t pay too much attention to all the noise out there.”