Jayson Tatum led the Boston Celtics with 34 points while Marcus Smart finished plus-18 in 27 minutes of action against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday.
The end result was a 134-112 Celtics win and a 47-28 record with seven regular-season games remaining.
Boston is now tied with the Miami Heat for the best record in the Eastern Conference after starting the season with a 25-25 mark. It has won 22 of the team’s past 25 games and continues to look like world beaters back east.
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Jayson Tatum has taken his game to the next level
Over the course of the past month, Tatum is averaging a ridiculous 32.8 points to go with 6.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists while shooting 52% from the field. The former Duke standout has put up some absurd performances during this span.
- Atlanta Hawks (March 1): 33 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 12-of-25 shooting
- Memphis Grizzlies (March 3): 37 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 14-of-25 shooting
- Brooklyn Nets (March 6): 54 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 16-of-30 shooting
- Charlotte Hornets (March 9): 44 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 16-of-24 shooting
- Oklahoma City Thunder (March 21): 36 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 11-of-19 shooting
The ability to score 30-plus on a conistent basis is limited to a handful of players in today’s NBA. Despite having already shown himself to be an elite-level player, this is the first extended stretch that Jayson Tatum has displayed that ability.
There’s also a lot to be said about the way Tatum and fellow franchie cornerstone Jaylen Brown have played together since rumors of Boston potentially breaking up the duo this summer became part of the lexicon in Beantown.
During the stretch that has seen Boston win 22 of 25, Brown has performed at an exceptional level acting as Tatum’s No. 2 guy.
- Jaylen Brown stats (past 24 games): 22.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.5 APG, 50% shooting
You can put their duo up with some of the better-known tandems in the NBA, and it will come out on top. That includes Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn as well as Joel Embiid and James Harden with the Philadelphia 76ers.
In fact, availability has been the best asset for Boston outside of the dynamic play we’ve seen from these two former lottery picks. The same thing can’t be said about Durant, Irving, Embiid and Harden.
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Marcus Smart has been the Boston Celtics’ glue on defense
Smart has been a catalyst for the Celtics’ turn around. It started earlier in the season when the former lottery pick called the team out over their lack of defense.
The frustration was obvious. A defensive-minded guard himself, Smart was disgusted by Boston’s defensive issues under first-year head coach Ime Udoka. That included giving up 138 points, 129 points and 128 points in three of the Celtics’ first seven games of the 2021-22 NBA season.
For Smart, he’s now acting as a catalyst on the court. The two-time All-NBA Defensive Team performer has been on a whole new level defensively recently.
Boston has outscored its opponents by a total of 299 points with Smart on the court since he returned from injury back in January 23. That’s an average of 10.7 points per game in roughly 30 minutes of action per.
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Everything is coming together for the Boston Celtics
We focused on Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown above. However, the rotation under Udoka seems to be coming together at the exact right time.
The torn meniscus Robert Williams recently suffered in his knee has to be cause for alarm in Boston. The big man has started all 61 games in which he’s appeared this season and has also been a catalyst on defense.
However, these Boston Celtics have the depth to overcome that. Veteran Al Horford will take on increased usage (29 minutes per game this season). He’s still playing at a relatively high level.
We can also expect the Celtics to go more small-ball with NBA trade deadline acquisition Derrick White taking on a larger role. He’s struggled to fit in (39% shooting, 25% three-point) since being acquired from the San Antonio Spurs. However, increased playing time over the final handful or so of regular-season games could set him up well for the playoffs.
When a team has two players in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown capable of dropping 30 consistently, it’s going to be a hard out in the postseason. When the team has a defensive stopper in Marcus Smart to pair up with them, that’s magnified further.
Right now, these Boston Celtics look like world beaters with just seven games to go in the regular season. It’s that simple.