BOSTON – The first half of Friday night’s game between the Boston Celtics and the San Antonio Spurs at TD Garden was bad enough that Celtics coach Brad Stevens’ daughter didn’t even have to see how the rest of the game unfolded.
“I was going to leave at half time,”
It turned out that in the end for those who chose to stick around Friday night, there is much to see.
After trailing by 32 points in the first half, the Celtics made a truly incredible comeback, eventually emerging with an exciting victory over the 143-year-old overtime spur. Boston’s victory was the team’s biggest comeback in more than a decade, with the Sacramento Kings returning from 35 to beat the Chicago Bulls in 2009 and the third-largest in 25 years.
The drama of it all complements Jason Tatum’s truly spectacular performance, in which he tied Larry Bird’s record to 60 points, including 31 in the fourth quarter and overtime. Tatum’s son, Deuce, had to leave with a well-won game ball while Tatum was showered with his teammates when he returned to the locker room.
“It was a special night,” Tatum said. “Just being around, playing with boys, you enjoy being around and you enjoy your success … we all see the hard work that each of us does every day, so when someone, me or anyone Well, there is such a night, just to share this moment with them is special. That your teammates are happy for you means everything. “
While Tatum was certainly on his way to a brilliant individual performance in the first half, scoring 24 points, no one could have imagined when both teams went to the locker room that there would be a dramatic return to Boston. Tatum was the only one to score Celtic, while Tristan Thompson returned an offensive ricochet with 44.2 seconds to the first quarter – the only points that all the Celts except Tatum scored in the opening period, with San Antonio competing with a 39-16 lead.
Things didn’t improve there either, as the Spurs – who shot over 70% in the first half – continued to pour it out, eventually leading 77-48 at half-time break.
“It’s a matter of experience, mental toughness, understanding that there are a lot of plays and that’s exactly the 48-minute game,” Spurs coach Greg Popovic said, explaining what happened to the Spurs in the second half. “People will run. You can’t afford to go down, because if you let it affect you, then suddenly the transition protection isn’t so good. You’re not so physically fit with the half-court protection, you get a little sloppy and you try to do things too fast in an attack where the ball has been moving before and suddenly stops because their defensive pressure is increased.
“So that’s a lot of things we did. It’s a tough, tough lesson, but it’s true.”
Things started to change in the third quarter when an explosion of 42 points from Boston reduced the deficit to a manageable 13 points, moving to the fourth. From there, Tatum took over, scoring 20 points in the fourth quarter and 11 more in overtime to help the Celtics over the finish line and complete a truly remarkable comeback.
“This boy is destined for greatness,” said fellow All-Star Jaylan Brown, who was 5-for-24 at night but hit the biggest hit of the game – a 3-point corner with 16.7 seconds to continue. in the overtime that gave Boston the lead forever.
“I couldn’t throw a rock in the ocean tonight and JT led us to victory, man. He played hard. He’s leading us tonight.”
While Tatum certainly led, it helped that his teammates finally began to see the shots that would not fall in the first half begin to fall on them in the second. Boston shot 13-for-20 from a range of 3 points in the second half and overtime, allowing the Celtics to return to the race and win the game.
Boston also got big minutes from rookie Aaron Nesmith, who had the best game of his career to date, playing below and in overtime and finishing with 16 points and six rebounds, including several critical attacks in attack and buckets for failure in favor of the scales. of Boston at the end of the game.
“I think the best part was obviously coming back and winning and just seeing everyone contribute,” Tatum said. “Obviously me and JB, the big shot that hit in the end. [Marcus] Smart all night. Tristan [Thompson] on the glass and Rob [Williams]. And Aaron came in and played amazing tonight.
“I think it just shows the growth of our team, with everyone contributing, obviously by 30 points, and just figuring out a way to win the game.”
The Celtics had a chance to finish the game in regulation after Tatum buried a 3-pointer with 38 seconds to go into the fourth to bring Boston forward for the first time since the start of the game. But after Tatum was fouled and made one of two free throws with 18.8 seconds to go, DeMar DeRosan – who had a great performance, finishing with 30 points and 14 assists in 42 minutes – turned to the hoop and drew a foul on Marcus Smart. , and tied the game at 128 with two free throws by 10.8 seconds to go.
Tatum then fired a shot, but his clear gaze on the jumper twisted hit the front of the edge and bounced, sending the game into an extra session.
“If he had fired the shot at the end of the regulation, he wouldn’t have tied Bird’s record,” Stevens said with a smile. “So, maybe that was all a big part of his plan.”
Both teams went back and forth in overtime, also with baskets of four straight possessions – Tatum, DeRozan i-1, another Tatum jumper and Lony Walker IV jumper – for the last 90 seconds changing the lead each time.
Eventually, however, Brown’s corner triangle took Boston forever, a lead that was retained first by Nesmith, who stole San Antonio’s next inbound pass and then from Tatum, knocking out four straight free throws to reach 60 in the night. , tied Bird’s Record and sent off the fans who stayed at home, happy to be left to see an unforgettable show.
“It’s definitely something I’ll remember forever,” Nesmith said. “Jason’s absolute career is high, the deficit of 30 plus points we overcame. I never even saw him in person and never watched him, and then being a part of him was just amazing. So definitely something that will always I remember. “