Jayson Tatum Scores 41 Points As The Boston Celtics Down The Brooklyn Nets To Extend NBA-Best Record

Tatum throws down a dunk during the game. (Peter K. Afriyie/AP)

By Sam Joseph, CNN

(CNN) — Five-time NBA All-Star Jayson Tatum poured in a game-high 41 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead the Boston Celtics to a 118-110 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday.

The Celtics have one of the best five-man units in the NBA with their starting lineup of Jrue Holiday, Derrick White, Jaylen Brown, Tatum and Kristaps Porziņģis. They were without Porziņģis on Tuesday after he suffered a lower back contusion against the Miami Heat on Sunday but showed no signs of struggling without the Latvian center.

With veteran big man Al Horford stepping in at the five, all five Celtics starters scored in double figures as they overwhelmed Brooklyn’s defense.

Facing a Nets team that is having trouble keeping its head above water, Boston kept the opposition at arm’s length throughout the game and held off a late fourth-quarter rally that saw Brooklyn bring the game to within six points. Much of the damage was done before the halftime buzzer after Tatum dropped 31 points in the first half alone as the Celtics went into the break up 15.

The 25-year-old appeared to be on pace to break his career-high of 60, but eased off in the second half – only taking nine shots and adding 10 more points – explaining after the game that there was “no temptation” to chase a record.

“We’ve got a really good team where in any given possession we could have two, three advantages and it’s not always just going to be me,” Tatum said after the game.
“So just understanding that and knowing that I need my teammates. I need everybody, we all need each other.”

Tatum, averaging 27 points and almost nine rebounds per game, is playing his way into the Most Valuable Player conversation by virtue of being the best player on the league’s best team. He even received MVP chants from the crowd during the game – despite the matchup taking place at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

After being on the losing end of the NBA Finals in 2022 and then coming up short in the Eastern Conference finals last year, Tatum and the Celtics are looking to get over the hump and claim the franchise’s 18th NBA championship.

“He wants to win more than anything else,” Boston head coach Joe Mazzulla said of Tatum after the game. “I think that’s part of his growth as a player is he understands he has to be great for us every night, but it looks different every night.”

The Celtics are statistically the league’s best team, currently sitting atop the Eastern Conference and improving to 42-12 after the win. The Cleveland Cavaliers are six games behind in the East at 35-17 while the West-leading Minnesota Timberwolves are 38-16.

The Nets, who have recently welcomed Ben Simmons back to the lineup, were unable to get over the line, despite the scoring efforts of the wing duo of Mikal Bridges (27 points) and Cam Thomas (26 points). Brooklyn is now 21-32 on the season and occupies the 11th seed in the East, just outside of a Play-In Tournament berth.

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