Last night’s Boston Celtics-San Antonio Spurs game was some of the least first-half fun I’ve ever had. Down by as many as 32 and carrying a 29-point deficit into the half, Boston gave their fans every reason to tune out of this one.
It’s been a season full of disappointment, and after being deemed a -4.5 betting favorite, it was appalling to see the San Antonio Spurs get whatever they wanted all over the floor with an apparent inability to stop it from the Celtics.
Then, the second half happened.
Calling it a turnaround doesn’t quite hammer home the despair Boston was suffering through in the first half. “Turning it around” implies the Cs simply needed a direction change to compete in this one.
No, Brad Stevens’ squad wasn’t in the same universe as the Spurs on Friday night during the first half. Something seismic must have happened in that locker-room at halftime.
This wasn’t a night and day switch, but rather a team finally arriving from the depths of the deepest darkest cave after an ice age. The second half resembled nothing like the first, with Boston attacking the rim and drawing contact while also converting on their looks beyond the arc.
Not only that, but the ball was moving around on a string. Marcus Smart finished the night with 12 assists, but even Tristan Thompson got in on the action, dishing out five assists including consecutive scoring possession with under six minutes left in the fourth quarter to twice tie the game.
Even Aaron Nesmith got in on the action, likely earning himself minutes in the team’s final eight games to give himself a shot at postseason minutes. This was the second consecutive 15+ point game for Nesmith, and he added six rebounds to go along with zero turnovers in 30 minutes of action.
All of this being said, the dialogue surrounding last night’s epic OT win begins and ends with Jayson Tatum. Given the historical significance of the performance, Hardwood Houdini has collected these five fun facts about Tatum’s 60-point game:
Fun-fact #1: Tatum tied Boston Celtics franchise record for points
To wear Celtics green and white and hear your name mentioned in the same breath as Larry Bird means you’re deeply rooted in the Boston Celtics history books.
Jayson Tatum tied one of the all-time sacred Cs records with the greatest Celtic of all time, and he did so in remarkably similar fashion:
Jayson Tatum’s career-high 60 PTS tonight tied Larry Bird’s @celtics franchise record.
Bird: 60 PTS on March 12, 1985 pic.twitter.com/WRvWKJR3sO
— NBA History (@NBAHistory) May 1, 2021
Bird infamously scored 32 of his 60 points over a 14-minute span against the Atlanta Hawks 36 years ago, and, as Boston Celtics analyst Keith Smith recounts, Tatum’s final 31 points came over a 17-minute stretch in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Fun-fact #2: Tatum is only Celtic ever with two 50-point games in one season
While Bird had many a legendary performances in his time, he never was able to break the 50-point barrier twice in the same campaign.
Jayson Tatum just surpassed the mark for the second time this season:
Jayson Tatum is the first player in Celtics history with multiple 50-point games in a season. pic.twitter.com/9w9uLI04lY
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 1, 2021
Tatum’s epic performance joins a season full of them for the league as a whole. Despite the condensed nature of the season, stars have been shining in this pandemic-stricken season. For the Boston Celtics, the season Tatum is having has never been fathomable before now.
Fun-fact #3: Tatum just had the most impressive no-turnover 60-burger ever
There have been several zero-turnover 60-point performances in the history of the league, and they have all happened post-LeBron James Miami Heat pace-and-space basketball.
Carmelo Anthony was the first to ever do it in 2014, and Klay Thompson was the second two years later. Both are some of the most lethal scorers of their generation, but both were not heavy on passing, which is, of course, the primary way to turn the ball over.
Anthony was a ball-dominant over-dribbler–who, granted, got the job done in aesthetically pleasing ways–and Thompson was a catch-and-shoot specialist.
Tatum had five assists last night and single-handedly led the greatest comeback of the NBA season.
Some zero-turnover 60-point performances are just different.
Fun-fact #4: Tatum is just the 11th player to score 60 points in game since 2010
A very exclusive and elite list makes up the players that have scored 60 points since the start of the 2010’s. Given the explosion of NBA offense that happened in the first half of the decade due to increased pace, and furthermore when the Golden State Warriors integrated the 3-pointer as their primary weapons, it’s no surprise there’s been at least one per year on average.
That said, this list is a who’s who of the game’s best:
Full list of players who have dropped 60 or more points in a game since 2010:
— Brian Robb (@BrianTRobb) May 1, 2021
There’s four MVPs on that list and several of the top names in the world today. Tatum has more than arrived: he’s part of the destination now.
Fun-fact #5: San Antonio just blew their biggest halftime lead ever
The Spurs are one of the league’s most legendary franchises of all time, and that history has mostly been forged since the turn of the century. Up until last year, they had a 22-year run of making the playoffs.
Boston just knocked down a squad coached by Gregg freakin’ Popovich after being by down by 32 at one point in the first half and 29 at halftime. While this year’s Spurs are certainly not of the ilk of Tim Duncan’s, Tony Parker’s, and Manu Ginobli’s, they are still a play-in tournament contender coached by one of the greatest basketball minds to ever roam the sidelines.
The gravity of this moment cannot be lost. Men have scored 60 points, but none have ever done so by coming back from such a deficit to knock off the coach with the highest winning percentage in NBA history.
Good luck to the rest of humankind producing a more impressive 60-point performance than Jayson Tatum’s last night.