Don’t look now, but the Boston Celtics may be turning the corner — and All-Star Jayson Tatum is in the driver’s seat.
On the heels of being named Eastern Conference Player of the Week, Tatum continued his stellar play into Tuesday night, knocking down two free throws and a last-second triple to ice the C’s victory over the Portland Trail Blazers and extend the team’s win streak to four games.
JAYSON TATUM FOR THREE pic.twitter.com/vDfV7eBa65
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) April 14, 2021
Tatum, who dropped a game-high 32 points, has now averaged 29.4 points per game over his last 10 contests, helping his Celtics climb back up to fifth-place in the conference. Averaging career-bests nearly across the board, the 23-year-old has seemingly taken his play to new heights this season, and his ever-evolving game has not gone unnoticed by the likes of Damian Lillard and Carmelo Anthony.
The latest Celtics news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Celtics newsletter here!
Join Heavy on Celtics!
Tatum’s Steady Growth is Eerily Familiar to Lillard
“As a player who has been in that position where your role is getting bigger, each year that goes by, you get more comfortable,” Damian Lillard said of Tatum following the Blazers’ loss. “He’s been in those situations more often. He’s missed those shots. He’s turned the ball over. He’s experienced it. From that, you get more and more comfortable.”
No player in the league may have more ice in their veins than Lillard, who ranks second in the NBA in clutch points. The MVP candidate knows a thing or two about putting teams away, which is why he couldn’t help but give Tatum his roses following his efforts on Tuesday.
“I’ve seen his training videos. I know he works on his game. You put all those things together and you get moments like he had tonight,” he continued. “That shows what kind of player he is. When another player leaves the door open, it’s your opportunity to shut it on them. And he does it. I’ve done it to people plenty of times. You’ve got to give credit to him and his growth as a player.”
Tatum Responds to Carmelo’s Praise
Anthony believes that Tatum, a two-time All-Star selection and the league’s 12th-leading scorer, hasn’t even scratched the surface in his evolution as one of the NBA’s elites.
“Tatum hit a great shot down the stretch. You tip your hat to him,” Anthony said. “He’s evolving. He’s becoming more and more comfortable being that guy, being in that role. He’s embracing it. That’s all that matters. I think his ceiling is very high. We all see that.”
“That’s one of the things I enjoy, getting respect from some of the guys I used to look up to, still look up to. That means a lot.”
Upon catching wind of Lillard and Anthony’s positive takes, Tatum informed reporters “That’s one of the things that I enjoy — getting respect from the guys that I used to and still look up to.”
Speaking of the guys that he used to, and still looks up to, Carmelo is up there with Tatum’s all-time idols.
“I have the utmost respect for both of them and everything they’ve accomplished,” Tatum claimed. “Melo was one of my idols. Besides Kobe (Bryant) he was one of my favorite players. Any time I get to talk to him or see or especially play against him, I don’t take that for granted. Just knowing that I used to watch film of him and his moves when I was in high school and middle school.”