With Jaylen Brown out for the season, Jayson Tatum has to be the guy for the Boston Celtics, and on Tuesday night against the Washington Wizards in the Play-In Tournament, he was all of that and then some.
Tatum scored 23 of his 50 points in the third quarter as the Boston Celtics routed the Wizards 118-100 at TD Garden. Boston now claims the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference and will play the second-seeded Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the playoffs, starting on Saturday.
Washington still has an opportunity to make the playoffs if they defeat the Pacers on Thursday night in D.C.
Bradley Beal led the Wizards with 22 points, and Russell Westbrook added 20 points, 14 rebounds, and five assists.
Washington had a 54-52 lead at halftime, but then Tatum and Kemba Walker took over in the third. Tatum shot 7-10 from the field, including 2-3 from three-point land, while Walker scored nine of his 29 points in that quarter, all from downtown. Boston would take a 90-80 lead into the fourth quarter, and the Wizards never really threatened after that.
“Be the best player on the floor,” Tatum, who was 17/17 from the free throw line, said after the game. “That’s what I told myself coming into this game. Do whatever it takes to win and be the best player on the floor.”
According to Wizards head coach Scott Brooks, Tatum is a special player and will be an MVP down the line.
“He’s a great player. He’s not a great young player,” Brooks said. “He’s a great player. He’s gonna be an MVP in this league soon.”
Tatum was clearly the best player on the floor, and Boston needed that to advance.
Regarding the Wizards, they were red-hot coming into this game as Washington won 17 of its final 23 games. However, Beal was still not himself on Tuesday night as he continues to deal with a hamstring injury, and Westbrook struggled from the field(6-18). Also, Washington made a season-low three(3-21) three-point field goals.
“We had a bad game; there’s no question,” Brooks said. “We haven’t had one of these in a long time. I think the last one was at Phoenix, and that was almost two months ago. We’ll regroup – we’ve got a lot of confidence that our guys are going to bounce back.”
Fortunately for Washington, they have an opportunity to redeem themselves on Thursday night against Indiana, who they swept(3-0) in the regular season. If the Wizards defeat Indiana, they will be the eighth seed and will battle the number-one seeded 76ers in the first round of the playoffs, which starts on Sunday.
Now, it’s officially win or go home for Washington. We’ll see how they respond on Thursday night.