Tatum scores 54 to lead Celtics past Nets 126-120
BOSTON (AP) — The challenge to Jayson Tatum against a Brooklyn lineup that featured a rare appearance from both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving: “Take the alpha approach.”
“Be the best guy on the court each night,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said he told Tatum before Tatum scored a season-high 54 points to lead Boston (Celtics) to a 126-120 victory over the uncommonly intact (Brooklyn) Nets. “He takes pride in the matchup going against high-level opponents.”
Durant played in his second game since mid-January and scored 37 for the Nets, becoming the 23rd player in NBA history to reach 25,000 points. Irving joined him for just the fourth time all season, scoring 19 in his first game in three weeks and his first in Boston since he was pelted with a water bottle during the playoffs last year.
“Those matchups — when you’re playing one of the better teams in the league, two of the best guys — as a competitor, those are the kinds of moments that as a kid you looked forward to,” Tatum said. “When those opportunities come, you try to make the most of it.”
Tatum scored a 34 points in the second half, and Jaylen Brown scored 21 for the Celtics. Brown, who was cleared to return to Boston’s lineup after testing his sprained ankle pregame, beat the 24-second clock to hit a 3-pointer and give Boston a 121-115 lead with 40 seconds left.
Durant missed a jumper the next time down — complaining that he was fouled, with no luck. Tatum was fouled the next possession and, as “MVP!” chants rang out in the TD Garden, he hit one of two free throws to surpass his previous season high of 51.
He added a pair of free throws in the final seconds for the second-highest total of his career.
The Celtics have won five of their last six and 21 of their last 27 games.
Irving had missed seven straight games and did not play in the Feb. 8 game against Boston in Brooklyn because of New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine requirements. … Durant missed 21 straight games before returning Thursday night.
Tatum’s 54 leads Celtics past Durant, Irving, Nets 126-120 The Associated Press – en Español