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Celtics’ Jayson Tatum poised to return vs. Spurs

Sportsnaut
Dec 25, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA;  Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) drives for the basket during the fourth quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 25, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) drives for the basket during the fourth quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Jayson Tatum is nearing a return for the Boston Celtics as the team prepares to host the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night.

Tatum has missed the last four games while in the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Boston tweeted a picture of Tatum back at practice on Tuesday night as all signs point toward him returning against the Spurs.

“He’s the type of guy that wants to come back and get right back into his role and not be limited,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “As long as his conditioning and his wind is fine, he can get right back to playing at the level he was.”

Tatum last played in the Celtics’ Christmas Day loss at Milwaukee, finishing with a team-high 25 points in a 117-113 loss. Boston went 2-2 without Tatum in the lineup, but it has won two straight entering Wednesday’s game.

With Tatum sidelined, co-star Jaylen Brown put the team on his back with a career-high 50 points and 11 rebounds in the Celtics’ 116-111 overtime win at home vs. Orlando on Sunday. Brown scored 21 points in the fourth quarter to help Boston overcome a late 14-point deficit.

“That was a big win,” Tatum said. “Obviously a big night from JB, and we needed it.”

Robert Williams III is probable for Wednesday after missing the game Sunday with a right big toe sprain. Romeo Langford (non-COVID illness), Aaron Nesmith (health and safety protocols) and Jabari Parker (dental work) are all questionable. Brodric Thomas is out due to low back pain.

San Antonio is coming off a fourth straight loss — a 129-104 setback at Toronto on Tuesday night.

Jakob Poeltl’s team highs of 19 points and 12 rebounds, plus 15 points apiece from Devin Vassell and Joshua Primo, were not enough to save the Spurs from defeat.

The teams were neck and neck until the midway point of the second quarter before the Raptors pulled away and led comfortably throughout the closing half.

Spurs leading scorer Dejounte Murray missed the game in Toronto, but he will rejoin the team in Boston. Coach Gregg Popovich said he expected Murray to be available to play.

Doug McDermott, Lonnie Walker IV and Devontae Cacok all remain sidelined in COVID protocol for San Antonio.

Amid the Spurs’ recent struggles, Popovich has taken a tunnel-vision approach with his team.

“The last time I checked, we weren’t like 23-4. So I watch our film,” Popovich told reporters Tuesday. “I haven’t watched Toronto or Boston or Orlando or whoever else. I just worry about what we’re doing.”

San Antonio won its first meeting with Boston, 96-88, at home on Nov. 26.

Murray set the tone against the Celtics with a Herculean effort, totaling a game-high 29 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. Keldon Johnson and Derrick White added 17 points apiece for San Antonio.

Tatum paced Boston with 24 points and 12 boards while Brown added 16 points. Tatum and Brown combined to go 15-for-39 for Boston, which shot just 37 percent (34 of 92) in the loss.

–Field Level Media