He took the challenge, but instead of relenting, he won one of the most meaningful games of his career. The Celtics recovered in the 4th quarter and at TD Garden he continued into overtime for a 121-118 victory.
The Warriors remain the defending champions. The Celtics are still the frontrunners to replace them, but it was psychologically important to Tatum.
He played in a career-best 48 minutes and 7 seconds, including the final 41 minutes of the game. He worked his way into a productive game, scoring 34 points with his career-high 19 rebounds, plus he scored 6 assists and his 3 steals. offset 7 turnovers.
It was not a classical performance. It wasn’t his best Tatum, but it was his good enough Tatum, and the difference between Thursday and the Celtics’ bombardment in Golden State on December 10 was cool.
“I think when I first played them in San Francisco, I felt like I accepted all the hype, the rematch of the finals, the ABC game, the first time I’ve come back after losing, that everybody wanted to win so badly. ‘ said Tatum. “I think it was the first time we played out of character all season. [Thursday]. lost. we lost the championship. Even if you win one, you can’t get it back. ”
But the Celtics had to prove themselves that they could beat the Warriors.
Of course, the Warriors were going to play like champions on Thursday. The regular season looked like one big distraction for a team with championship pedigree.They have elite talent. They can shoot with any team in his NBA and defend brilliantly when they want to. But this season’s lust and fortitude were fleeting.
It wasn’t Thursday night. If the Celtics were going to beat the Warriors, they were going to beat the eager Warriors.
“Obviously they are one of the greatest teams of all time,” said Jaylen Brown. “It’s hard to beat them when you’re ready to play. Being able to fight back and stay united even when we were down in the fourth quarter was the biggest part of the win, and it’s about being consistent. was made.”
Brown also struggled. However, he hit his 3-pointer to tie the game with 18.6 seconds remaining and the game went into overtime. After missing his last three games with a right adductor strain, Brown looked a step behind until the fourth quarter, but his drive post-Golden began to hurt his State defense.
Tatum has at times appeared tame with Wiggins, who did not show up for the December meeting. However, he began devising ways to make plays without forcing shots.In the Finals, Tatum faced multiple defenders with low layup rates. On Thursday he was not able to finish as usual, but he was able to reach the rim.
I’m glad I won. It wasn’t pretty,” Tatum said. “But this was a nice win to figure it out. No one but Al [Horford] great shot. It’s tough play, go to the next stage, do whatever it takes to win, and that’s the most rewarding win. ”
Had the Celtics lost this game, it wouldn’t have been considered a fraud, but it would have been seen as something they could beat. The Magic’s two losses, a team that hasn’t won a road game in a long time, would have taken a big dent in their resumes.
So for now the win was important. They would be many other contenders to come out of the West, but the Celtics have been beating them all this season. Stuff the defender into the paint and force him to drive left where he is indecisive and can make mistakes on passes.
The Celtics countered with a winning play: an offensive rebound, a defensive Gem Lim to single out the Warriors. They won an ugly match, but a pretty win, especially for Tatum. Over the last seven months, he’s been listening to critics about how Wiggins’ defense has let him down.
He still made a few mistakes on Thursday, but didn’t let his mistakes affect his approach.
“I’m just trying to forget the past,” Tatum said. “Hats off to the Warriors. They won the championship. They beat us. It’s a good win for the team and we’ll move on to the next one.”
Gary Washburn is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com. follow him on twitter @GwashburnGlobe.