Kyrie Irving had already scored 37 points with three minutes remaining in Game 2 and the Pacers seemed fairly determined to make sure the All-Star wouldn’t be beating them single-handedly down the stretch of the Celtics’ dramatic 99-91 win on Wednesday night. Irving did not even attempt a shot the rest of the way, facing a steady barrage of double teams and help defenders against an Indiana defense that had locked most of his Celtic teammates down for the better part of the first three quarters.
To his credit, Irving did not try to play hero-ball in the closing moments of what was a magical 37-point effort. He made the right play time and time again down the stretch and counted on the young guys who he had repeatedly called out during the regular season at various points to finish the job. That faith paid off on Wednesday night as Jayson Tatum (among others) rose to the occasion and reminded everyone why DannyAinge stuck with this entire group after last year’s surprise postseason run.
Tatum’s 26-point performance (11-of-20 FG, 3-of-6 3pt) was the second-highest scoring mark in his 21 career playoff games. Yet, it was the timing of those points that made him stand out from the pack, posting 10 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter, with six coming in the final minute of the game alone. With all the chips on the table, Tatum became a crucial second option on a night the Celtics desperately needed his offense as Al Horford battled illness (four points).
The magic started at the 59-second mark. While Tatum will get the most credit for the eventual go-ahead basket in the win, the entire sequence is worthy of a second look.