Jayson Tatum had 37 points on 11-of-24 of shooting (plus 13 free throws), 13 rebounds, five assists and two blocks to help lead the Celtics to a 125-112 win over the Mavericks Wednesday night. Despite the loss, Luka Doncic was unstoppable with 42 points on 17-of-28 of shooting (plus five free throws), eight rebounds and nine assists.
Tatum came into the game listed as questionable, but teammate Jaylen Brown said he was never going to miss this matchup of arguably the top two MVP candidates in the league.
“He was going to play, and he was playing,” Brown said. “He knew who he was matched up with. He had that game circled. Don’t let him fool y’all. He was playing the whole time.”
Seeing Tatum with such a competitive mindset to not only play, but to dominate against one of the best players, shows how much he has evolved as a player within the past five years. Tatum not only challenged Doncic on the offensive side, but also on the defensive side, blocking Doncic at the rim and showing the world that the best players play on both sides.
When speaking on that play, Tatum said, “I told Luka I had to block it because I didn’t want him to dunk on me.”
Doncic responded by saying, “You thought I was going to dunk it!?”
Doncic as of right now is leading the league in points per game, averaging 34. Tatum is fourth in that race, averaging 30.6 points per game. As for the defensive side of the court, Tatum is beginning to establish himself as one of the best two-way players in the game, perhaps even challenging Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Whoever you think is the better player is as objective as can be. Both players are under 25 and are not only the faces of their franchise, but are becoming the new faces of the league. The argument can be made on both sides that one is better than the other. The only thing that can’t be disputed is that the future of the NBA is in great hands.