The season has been a slog for the Boston Celtics. There was a spate of coronavirus-related absences that shut down practice for a stretch, a knee injury that hampered Kemba Walker, nine straight games missed by key midseason acquisition Evan Fournier and finally a devastating, season-ending injury to Jaylen Brown.
The Celtics simply couldn’t find the continuity to keep pace in an increasingly strong Eastern Conference, finishing the regular season in seventh place and needing to survive the NBA’s play-in tournament to advance in the playoffs.
For all the adversity, the Celtics still feature Jayson Tatum, who marched out of the tunnel after halftime of Tuesday night’s play-in matchup against the Washington Wizards and, with Walker, controlled the opening minutes of the third quarter.
Tatum reached 41 points by the end of the third quarter — tied for his most through three quarters in any game of his career, according to research ESPN Stats & Information. He would finish with 50 in the Celtics’ 118-100 victory in Boston.