- Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) is a professor and an NBA analyst for ESPN.
Less than 10 days ago, the Boston Celtics were playing the biggest game of their season, facing elimination on the road against the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks. It was a crucible moment for the best young team in the Eastern Conference, and Jayson Tatum played one of the best games of his life to extend the series and save Boston’s season.
Tatum went off for 46 points, shooting and scoring more than twice as many points as any of his teammates. He went toe-to-toe with Giannis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee and led his team to its biggest win of the season.
The Celtics went on to a breezy Game 7 victory to advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the third time in five years, but this trip feels different. Tatum & Co. have already eliminated Kevin Durant and Antetokounmpo in back-to-back series, as Tatum has become the face of one of the toughest young teams in recent NBA history.
At 24, Tatum is exactly what the Celtics need him to be: an elite two-way star who fits neatly within coach Ime Udoka’s hard-nosed, team-first concepts. It didn’t happen overnight, but since January, Tatum has played some of the best hoops of his life, and his midseason awakening is a huge reason why Boston is a real threat to take home the redesigned Larry O’Brien Trophy next month.
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