What. A. Game. After trailing by 32 points against the San Antonio Spurs in the second quarter, the Boston Celtics came all the way back to force overtime, and then win the game, with the final score coming in at 143-140. Jayson Tatum erupted for 60 points, and had one of the most dominant scoring efforts in Celtics history. This was a thrilling contest, especially down the stretch in the fourth quarter and overtime, as it could have gone either way, but the Celtics finished off the comeback, and picked one of their best victories on the season.
The first half was arguably the worst half of the Celtics season. They started off alright, but allowed San Antonio to go on a 23-6 run to end the first quarter, and somehow faced a 23 point deficit when the quarter wrapped up. Tatum was the only reason this wasn’t more of a blowout, as he had 14 of the Celtics 16 first quarter points, which goes to show how badly they were struggling offensively. The Celtics offense woke up in the second quarter, but they still had no answers for the Spurs on the defensive end of the ball, and ended up losing the quarter 38-32. Tatum would drop 10 more points in the second quarter to keep the Celtics afloat while the rest of the team woke up. San Antonio extended the lead all the way out to 32 points at one point in the second, before settling at 29 points heading into the half, with the score being 77-48.
And in fitting fashion for the 2021 Celtics, they made a furious rally back into the game, starting with a 42 point third quarter. Whereas Tatum had carried the load early on, this was a real team effort for the most part. They dominated the second half of the quarter, going on a 25-10 run to close out the quarter. It was especially big considering Tatum wasn’t on the floor for a large chunk of the run, and the lead was brought back down to 13, setting the stage for yet another wild fourth quarter.
The momentum had fully swung the Celtics way, and they battled back to tie the game at 116 with five and a half minutes left in the game. They would go blow for blow with the Spurs throughout the rest of the quarter, with DeMar DeRozan and Jayson Tatum basically trading shot for shot down the stretch. Tatum was phenomenal yet again, dropping 21 points in the frame, and had a chance to give Boston a three point lead on a pair of free throws with 19 seconds left, but only hit one of two. DeRozan promptly would go down and get fouled on the other end, hitting his two free throws to tie the game at 128. Tatum had a shot to end the game, but came up just short on a fading midrange jumper, sending the game to overtime.
The overtime was just as back and forth as the fourth quarter, and ended up coming down to the wire. The Spurs held a one point lead with 30 seconds left, only for Jaylen Brown to nail a huge corner three to give Boston a two point lead. Jayson Tatum would hit four more free throws to help hold off San Antonio, and they couldn’t get a shot off before time expired with a chance to tie the game.
There’s really nowhere else to start other than Jayson Tatum. 60 points ties him with Larry Bird for the most ever by a Celtics player in a single game, and he probably would have broken it had he been awarded an and-one rather than a foul on the floor right at the end of OT. He was dominant throughout the night, even during the Celtics struggles in the first half. He somehow kept the game within reach, even as the deficit ballooned to 32 points, and without him there is absolutely no shot the Celtics pull out this victory.
Of course, Tatum needed some help down the stretch, and he certainly got some from some unexpected sources. While Jaylen Brown struggled for much of the night, shooting a miserable 5/24 from the floor, that meant secondary players were going to step up. The first guy mentioned has to be Aaron Nesmith. He was an absolute game changer in the fourth quarter, and it was no surprise he was playing the biggest minutes of the game. He’s beginning to find his footing in the offense, and he flies all over the place defensively, which was a huge help in slowing down the Spurs shooting.
Tristan Thompson also had a surprisingly solid night, as he played a large chunk of the second half, and was absolutely gassed by the halfway point of overtime. He had eight offensive rebounds, which was huge in creating some much needed second chance points, while also playing really solid interior defense as well. Marcus Smart also played a huge role as the primary facilitator on offense, as he dished out 12 assists along with 10 points to give him a well earned double-double.
Despite the struggles in the first half, you have to be happy with the team pulling out this victory. They overcame every punch the Spurs threw at the end, and showed true resiliency to battle back in this one. Obviously it would be better if they didn’t have to make these ridiculous comebacks on a nightly basis, but we will take the wins where we can get with this team.
The Celtics now will welcome in the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday, and they will have to have a much better first half in this one or else Portland will make them pay. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are a deadly duo, and although they haven’t been as effective in the past couple of weeks, you don’t want to let them get hot or else they won’t stop scoring. Let’s see if the Celtics can start up another little winning streak as the season draws to a close, as picking up a victory over Portland would be a huge boost to this team in the late stages of the season.
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