Jayson Tatum outduels Kawhi Leonard as Boston Celtics take down Los Angeles Clippers

After making their fans stay up way past their bedtime to watch a 10p.m. EST start, it looked for a long like the Celtics were going to make us regret not just going to bed and watching the highlights in the morning. They trailed by 17 in the second quarter and 11 at the half, as the Clippers got wherever they wanted to and put up 62 points in the first half, the most the C’s have allowed this season. But then, Boston came storming back and pulled out a 119-115 win at the Staples Center to make it all worth it.

Both teams came into this game missing key players, as Jaylen Brown and Paul George both missed the game due to injury. For the first 24 minutes, it looked like the C’s were more impacted by their loss though, as the signature defensive pressure that Brown plays with was sorely lacking.

But in the third quarter, everything came together for Boston. They ratcheted up their defense, and as is so often the case, their offense followed. They dropped 38 points in the frame to turn an 11-point deficit into a 7-point lead going into the fourth quarter. Jayson Tatum scored 12 points on his own in the quarter as Boston once again proved that no lead against them is safe with their offensive firepower.

Tatum would go on to finish the game with 34 points, including 5-10 on 3’s, as he picked up the slack with Brown out. Every game, he continues to look more and more comfortable handling the ball and the double teams that come with being a superstar in the NBA. After the struggles he had during his rookie year even beating a defender 1-on-1, it’s a sign of how far he has come in just a few short years.

He also dominates the Clippers, something that would be great news if these two teams manage to reach the NBA finals. Even though Los Angeles features some strong defenders, including one of the league’s best in Leonard, Tatum seems to be able to score on this team like it’s nothing, going for 34 tonight after dropping 39 on them in a double overtime win last season. Whatever the reason, he loves playing this team, and it’s always fun to watch.

Even after the C’s came storming back, this game wasn’t over yet, as it was a back-and-forth affair down the stretch. However, after struggling in the first half, Kemba Walker played the hero in the game’s closing minutes, hitting a dagger stepback and then making a pair of FT’s to seal the game.

Some of the game’s most important plays that allowed for a Celtics win, however, happened while they were still losing. Simply put, Carsen Edwards kept them alive. He ended up with 16 points, but the 13 he scored in the first half were the most important. He started off his night by nailing his first three shots, all 3-pointers, as the Clippers were looking like they might run away with the game. He provided a huge spark for the team, without that spark, there’s no way Boston wins this game.

As previously noted, players don’t care about garbage time. Seeing shots go in, no matter when it comes in a game, can get them hot and put them into their rhythm. For Edwards, some of the blowouts that Boston has been a part of have allowed him to do that. If this were an NBA 2K video game, Edwards would most certainly have the ‘Microwave’ attribute- if he makes one shot, he’s in the zone and can take over. That’s what happened in this game. With the ineffective play of Jeff Teague continuing, don’t be surprised to see Edwards start to steal minutes from the veteran PG who was brought in to replace Brad Wanamaker.

One other note from this game is that Payton Pritchard returned from his sprained MCL. When the rookie went down after Jaylen Brown fell into the side of his knee, it looked bad. But Boston dodged a bullet, as the injury turned out to be relatively minor, and Pritchard returned after missing only six games. And somehow, it looked like he never left, scoring 8 points on 3-4 shooting in just over 19 minutes of action. His return to Boston’s second unit will be gladly welcomed, with his outstanding shooting and ability to run the offense for stretches.

With the win, Boston moves to 12-9, good for fourth in the strong Eastern Conference. Without Brown, it looked like Boston had no shot in this game before they came back from the dead in the second half. Once this team gets healthy, which still has not really happened this year, they’re going to be fun to watch. Hopefully, making the key shot at the end will snap Kemba out of his funk that he’s struggled to emerge from since returning from his injury. The C’s next game is Sunday at 2 p.m. against the Suns.

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