The season has been a slog for the Boston Celtics. There was a spate of COVID-related absences that shut down practice for a stretch, a knee injury that hampered Kemba Walker, nine straight games missed by key mid-season 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 in the lead up to the play-in tournament and 2021 NBA playoffs.
For all the adversity, the Celtics still feature Jayson Tatum, who marched out of the tunnel after halftime on Tuesday night and, with Walker, controlled the opening minutes of the third quarter in the play-in tournament against the Washington Wizards.
Tatum notched 41 points by the end of the third quarter — tied for his most through three quarters in any game of his career, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He would finish with 50 in the Celtics’ 118-100 victory.
In the second-half explosion, Tatum drained from distance and pressured the defense from mid-range. Hit with a double-team down low, he promptly found Walker on the weak-side perimeter for a 3-pointer, one of three triples Walker sank in the first three minutes of the second half. The Celtics ran off a 20-4 run after intermission, a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.