The Celtics offense once again put on a show Wednesday night, making it three straight games with 130-plus points (something they hadn’t done since 1968) with a 134-121 win over the Miami Heat. After totaling 40 assists on Monday night against the Hornets, Boston totaled 32 in Wednesday night’s win as they shot 46-of-83 (55.4%) from the field. It was the third consecutive game in which Boston shot at least 50% from the field.
Boston saw five players finish in double figures, but on a night in which royalty was in the building, Jayson Tatum showed why he belongs in the conversation of NBA royalty.
Tatum scored a season-high 49 points on 15-of-25 (60%) shooting, and also grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds, as he notched his ninth double-double of the season.
The 24-year old star has now scored 30-plus points in 12 of the 21 games he has played in, and the Celtics are 11-1 in those games. His 49 points on Wednesday night are tied for fourth-most scored in a game this season.
Tatum was dominant from start to finish Wednesday night, as he finished with 28 points in just 20:56 in the first half. He has now scored 20-plus points in the first half of a game six times this season.
Tatum had to shoulder a little more of the load in the third quarter as Jaylen Brown notched his fourth foul of the game just 37 seconds into the second half, forcing him to sit. Tatum played the entirety of the third quarter and finished with a team-high 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting, as he was able to preserve the Boston lead, putting the Celtics up by six at the end of the third.
Tatum sat the first half of the fourth quarter and Miami had cut the lead to four at the 6:17 mark, when Tatum checked back in. Boston would finish the game on an 18-8 run, behind eight points from Tatum in the final six minutes.
On a night in which Tatum was showered with MVP chants by the TD Garden crowd throughout the night, his teammate, Malcolm Brogdon, said of Tatum postgame: “He’s taken a giant step every year… to be in the MVP race at times last year, and then to take the jump he is taking this year has been pretty incredible to watch… Undoubtedly he should be leading the MVP race right now.”
Brogdon has a point. The Celtics have now played about a quarter of the season, and Tatum is the leading scorer on a team that statistically has one the best offenses in NBA history and possesses the league’s best record. Following Wednesday night’s win, Tatum also now leads the NBA with the best plus/minus (+198).
Tatum has been in the MVP conversation before; he finished in sixth place just a season ago, and was 12th for the 2019-2020 season. What has prevented Tatum from winning the award, or finishing higher in voting, in the past has been slow starts.
Through the first 21 games a season ago, Tatum had a total of 510 points. This season, through 21 games, he has scored 664 points, which is good for second in the NBA, behind just Kevin Durant, who has played in two more games than Tatum this season.
It’s tough to argue against Tatum as the MVP right now, given the historic success of his team, and his personal numbers. Tatum ranks second in points per game with 31.6, he is shooting 48.8% from the field this season, and his team is 18-4 on the season.
When asked about hearing MVP chants from the Garden crowd after the game, Tatum told NBC Sports Boston’s Abby Chin, “It means everything. It’s something I dreamed about as a kid, and to hear it in front of our home crowd, in front of the best fans in the world, it holds a special place in my heart. I love this place, I love being here.”
Tatum and the Celtics are now 11-1 at home this season, as they are on their longest home win streak since 2019. Tatum also became the youngest player in NBA history to reach 900 career three-pointers in Wednesday's win.
You can say that again, Your Royal Highness.