Tatum sets Celtics goal record in LA

On February 23, 2020, Jayson Tatum had such an impressive performance against the Los Angeles Lakers that LeBron James felt the need to send a warning to the rest of the NBA.

After standing on the opposite end of Tatum’s then-career high 41 points, James posted a photo to Instagram of himself standing to the right of the 21-year-old rising star at the STAPLES Center scorer’s table with a caption that read, ” That boi to my left is an ABSOLUTE PROBLEM!!”

Three seasons later, Tatum is a bigger problem than ever, and that’s especially true for James and the Lakers.

On Tuesday night in Los Angeles, JT dropped another 40-piece, this time finishing with 44 in the scoring column and outscoring James by 11 in a 122-118 win in overtime. It marked the highest individual goal on the road against the Lakers in franchise history and was just two points behind Ed Macauley’s team record of 46 against the Purple and Gold, set at the Boston Garden on March 6, 1953.

It was also the fifth straight game in which Tatum had more than 30 points against Los Angeles, a span in which he averaged 37.2 points while shooting 56.5 percent from the field and 55.6 percent from the 3rd minute -Score range shot.

The problem Tatum posed for the Lakers Tuesday night was not just the volume of his goals, but the punctuality of his buckets. He scored seven of Boston’s last 12 points in the final 3:08 of regulation and helped the Celtics overcome a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter. His most impressive bucket was the one that ended the game – a turnaround stepback jumper over James – with 17.8 seconds left, which sent him into overtime.

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Before that basket, the Lakers had a chance to go up by four and potentially thwart the game. Anthony Davis went to the free throw line with 28 seconds left, but he knocked both attempts off the rim. The rebound from the second miss found Tatum’s hands and rather than take one of the remaining timeouts, interim Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla dribbled his top scorer straight up to save the night.

“It was better for us to push it, not for us to take a timeout and allow them to build their defense,” said Tatum, who also had nine rebounds, dished out six assists and had 15 of 29 shots from the field , 5-of-10 from the 3-point area and 9-of-10 from the free-throw line. “Hit the ball and find me an opportunity, find a seat and just come to my seat. That’s what I did. I tried not to commit myself. I work on that all the time, go in the middle, play on the line and a shot that I’m very comfortable with.”

Mazzulla added: “I saw a great player who took a great shot and a guy who wanted the moment. I thought that made us work overtime, he embraced that moment. Our team fed off of it and our team embraced the moment for the rest of the overtime.”

Tatum has been an absolute problem for arch-rivals Lakers over the years and Tuesday night’s performance was his greatest of all.

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