Jayson Tatum gave Boston Celtics fans an early Christmas present when he dropped 30 points in three quarters against the Los Angeles Clippers. With a 145-108 blowout win, the Celtics made light work of one of the hottest teams in the NBA and moved to a league-best 22-6 record.
The Clippers had won nine games in a row entering the contest, but they had to battle Boston without injured top option Kawhi Leonard. Meanwhile, Kristaps Porzingis missed the game for the C’s due to a left ankle injury he suffered in the team’s previous outing against the Sacramento Kings.
Tatum had missed the Kings game with a left ankle sprain of his own. The All-NBA superstar sustained the injury during an overtime loss to the Warriors on Dec. 19. Known for his durability and tendency to recover quickly, Tatum was back like he never left in an impressive performance at Crypto.com Arena.
Just one day before Christmas Eve, the C’s improved to 2-1 on their west coast road trip and handed the Clips just their fourth loss in 15 home games this season. Tatum logged his 30-piece in just over 30 minutes as the talented forward shot 9-of-16 from the field and 5-of-10 from three.
While Tatum’s injury return made headlines, the Celtics made history with some outrageous 3-point shooting. After splashing 22 threes against the Kings, Boston followed that up with 25 threes against the Clippers. 47 threes across a two-game span marks a franchise record for the Celtics, who have shot 49.4% from deep through their last eight quarters of basketball.
The Celtics also matched their highest number of total points in a two-game span since 1966. Boston’s 289 combined points helped the 18-time champions move up to the No. 4 offensive rating in basketball.
Boston’s beatdown of the Clippers also marked the first time in team history that the Celtics scored at least 140 points and sank at least 25 3-pointers at the same time. Only five other teams have achieved the feat before.
In addition, the Celtics tied the NBA record for most players with three or more 3-pointers in a single contest. Six different Celtics connected from beyond the arc, including Tatum and his running mate Jaylen Brown.
Along with the team’s incredible execution of a three-heavy game plan, All-Defensive guard Derrick White made some individual history of his own. The do-it-all floor general joined elite company as he became only the second guard in NBA history to record at least three blocks in four straight games.
White’s accomplishments don’t stop there. Following his 28-point outburst against the Kings, the fan-favorite combo guard became the first player in league history to notch six 3-pointers and three blocks in two straight games.
White has a chance to make his first-ever All-Star game this season. He forms a legitimate case with his uber-efficient shooting and all-around production.
Jrue Holiday, who was an All-Star with the Bucks last year, came one point shy of his season-high in scoring with 20 points, six rebounds, and seven assists. After the win, Holiday spoke to NBC Sports Boston about sharing the court with talented players like Tatum, Brown, and White.
"I think with this type of talent, it just makes the game easier. These guys are high-character guys, they have high IQs. The way that they play the game makes it so much easier for me."- Jrue Holiday
Despite his team’s red-hot shooting, Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla downplayed the importance of the victory. In his postgame press conference, he emphasized that Boston still has room to grow and improve as a team.
"I do not consider it a statement win, I consider it a win. I consider it an opportunity where we played well and an opportunity to figure out where we didn't play well. We left a lot on the table as far as our execution and the things we want to accomplish, so I do not consider it a statement win."- Joe Mazzulla
Mazzulla’s motivation to get the most out of his players has resonated with them. The Celtics have fully bought into a defensive-minded culture and perimeter-oriented attack to become one of the best teams in basketball.
With Boston blistering from three and Tatum back to full strength, the Celtics should enter their Christmas Day rivalry game with the Los Angeles Lakers confident and ready for anything.