Celtics

Karalis: Jayson Tatum knocking on the door of superstardom

(Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)

Put a pin in this game.

When we go back through Jayson Tatum's career someday and pick out the mile markers of his career, this will probably be one of them.

“He was amazing again," Brad Stevens said after his Boston Celtics held off the Golden State Warriors Saturday night behind Tatum's 44-point outburst. "Early on we looked like we were moving in mud a little bit. But then he went to a different level and he was unbelievable.”

This game was Stephen Curry's at the beginning. He was on his way to another one of those performances that leave you slack-jawed and wondering if he's even from this planet. He was up to 14 points in the first quarter, the exact difference in the game at that time, but Tatum fired off Boston's next seven points to keep the game close.

Curry took the spotlight back after drilling a 3-pointer in Marcus Smart's face (his 22nd point of the night) to give the Warriors a 16 point lead with 1:24 to go in the half, but by the time Tatum had caught and passed him with his 23rd point, the lead was down to six.

No matter what Curry did, Tatum was there to match it.

"You can tell the game has slowed down for him, just in the way he picks and chooses his spots and how he manages the game," Curry said of Tatum after the game. "He's shooting the ball a lot better from the perimeter, but when that game slows down ... that's when you become lethal."

Lethal. That's what Tatum has become over his last 13 games. He's averaging 29.5 points per game in that span on 51.1% shooting, 41.6% on 3-pointers, and 91.3% on free throws. Tatum has never had a full month where he's gone 50/40/90. He's only gotten to 50% shooting in three other months, and one of them was earlier this season in January before he caught COVID-19.

He's taking six free throws a game this month, a big development for a player who has historically not gotten to the line very often. If you throw out his game as a bystander to Jaylen Brown's explosion against the Lakers (Tatum didn't take a free throw in that game), Tatum has gone to the line 8, 10, 8, and 16 times in the past week. That's a product of a more efficient, attacking Tatum who now puts up shot charts with a whole lot of green in the restricted area.