Celtics

5 takeaways as Jayson Tatum’s 50 points lead Celtics over Wizards in play-in game

Jayson Tatum submitted a dominant performance on Tuesday.

Jayson Tatum scored 50 to lead the Celtics on Tuesday. Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images

The Celtics advanced to the real playoffs on Tuesday, pulling away from the Washington Wizards with a 118-100 victory in the play-in game. Jayson Tatum led the way with a monstrous 50-point performance.

Here’s what happened.

The big picture

The Celtics started strong and looked energetic early, but the Wizards answered with an impressive close before halftime. Washington extended its lead as high as eight before the Celtics closed to within two.

At the start of the third quarter, Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum helped lead the Celtics on a 17-2 run that pushed the lead to 13.

Then Tatum took over, demolishing the Wizards as Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal struggled to score efficiently. The Celtics held their double-digit lead, then expanded it as high as 22 before the garbage-time unit entered in the final minutes.

Star of the game

Jayson Tatum – 50 points, 17-for-17 from the free throw line, eight rebounds, four assists.

Tatum submitted a masterful performance. The Wizards were too small or too slow to deal with him, and he didn’t stop taking advantage until he was removed in the late fourth quarter.

What it means

The regular season is over, so this is an easy one. The Celtics are now the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs and will face Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets. The schedule isn’t official yet, but the postseason begins on Saturday.

Takeaways

1. The Wizards ran into trouble early when Rui Hachimura — the only player who could competently guard Tatum — drew two quick fouls. He sat for much of the first half and was on the bench when Tatum started taking over the game in the third quarter. When Wizards coach Scott Brooks finally put him back in, the damage was done, and Tatum was loose.

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2. The Celtics seemed to narrowly avoid two scary injuries. In the first half, Marcus Smart appeared to sprain his ankle and couldn’t stand up by himself. He hopped to the locker room but returned to the bench shortly afterward and re-entered the game to guard Beal (similarly hampered by a hamstring injury).

Later in the half, Robert Williams — who missed four games prior to the play-in game with a case of turf toe — landed strangely on Tatum’s foot and went to the ground hard. He slapped the floor in frustration and limped to the locker room. He returned briefly at the start of the second half but was clearly uncomfortable and quickly was removed for the remainder of the game. Stevens said after the game that Williams hyperextended his toe.

3. Before Tatum’s third-quarter explosion, Kemba Walker was equally instrumental to the Celtics’s success. He looked energetic and fresh after missing the final two games of the regular season, flying around the court and punishing the Wizards around the rim and from 3-point range.

“The Celtics need a healthy Kemba to make a run” has been a common refrain around the team this season. The last few weeks bode well.

4. Beal deserves credit for gutting through what was very clearly an uncomfortable hamstring injury. Despite his obvious discomfort, Beal was the Wizards’ best offensive option as Westbrook struggled, and he even took on the assignment of guarding Tatum for stretches.

5. One strange note regarding Tatum’s 50-point night: Because the play-in game is neither the regular season nor the playoffs, the points won’t count toward either his regular-season or playoff totals. Tatum put the Celtics on his back and carried them into the postseason by demolishing the Wizards, but his statistical heroics went straight into the play-in void.

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