‘Tatum was super special’: Brad Stevens compares Jayson Tatum’s 53-point game to Isaiah Thomas’s historic performance

Tatum scored 37 points in the second half and overtime in Friday's win.

Jayson Tatum was dominant in the second half and overtime in the Celtics' win over the Timberwolves. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Jayson Tatum’s coach was just as in awe of his performance as Celtics fans were Friday night.

The star forward put up 53 points in the Celtics’ 145-136 overtime win over the Timberwolves. The last time a Celtics player scored that many points in a game was in 2017, when Isaiah Thomas scored the same amount against the Wizards in an overtime playoff win.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens recalled Thomas’ performance, comparing Tatum’s game to it to say how impressive Tatum was on Friday.

“It was a lot like what I recall about Isaiah on so many occasions, he just wouldn’t let us lose. And Tatum was like that,” Stevens told reporters following the game. “When we were coming back in the third, you could see he had it. Guys did a good job finding him. I thought the key to winning the overtime was actually not only the first bucket, but then the recognition to get off the ball because they were sending so many guys to him.”

In addition to having the same point total, Tatum’s performance on Friday was similar to Thomas’s in other ways. In the 2017 performance, Thomas put up 29 points in the fourth quarter and in overtime. On Friday, Tatum scored 37 of his 53 points in the second half and overtime.

Tatum ended up playing 41 of Friday’s 53 minutes, two days after playing 42 minutes in the Celtics’ win over the Knicks. Stevens thought that was an impressive aspect of his 53-point game.

“Tatum was super special tonight,” Stevens said. “That’s coming off a heavy minute night the night before. Don’t mistake his quiet demeanor for not being a competitor. He is a competitor.”


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