Boston Celtics

Celtics-Nets takeaways: Tatum drops 41 in C's sixth straight road win

Jayson Tatum tied his career-high with 31 points in the first half.

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Three Key Storylines

  • Jayson Tatum takes over
  • No Porzingis, no problem
  • Finding success in the paint

The Boston Celtics took down the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday night for their sixth consecutive road win and fifth straight overall.

It was a tightly contested first half, then the C's pulled away to enter the break with a whopping 72 points for a 15-point lead. Jayson Tatum was the catalyst for the run as he tied his career-high with 31 points in the half.

According to Celtics stats guru Dick Lipe, it was the 13th time Boston has scored at least 70 points in the first half this season. That ties its franchise record, set during its 1959-60 championship campaign.

The Celtics extended their lead to as many as 23 points before the Nets made a last-ditch effort in the fourth quarter. Brooklyn took advantage of some sloppy second-half play by Boston to cut the deficit to six in crunch time. It wasn't enough, however, as the C's closed out a 118-110 victory.

Tatum finished with 41 points, his highest total since his 45-point performance vs. Minnesota in a game that went to overtime on Jan. 10. With Kristaps Porzingis (back) sidelined, the rest of the starting lineup stepped up to all score in double figures. Jaylen Brown was the second-highest scorer with 19.

Mikal Bridges led the Nets with 27 points while Cam Thomas chipped in 26, including 12 in the fourth quarter.

The Celtics and Nets will have a rematch at TD Garden on Wednesday night, marking Boston's final game before the All-Star break. First, here are our takeaways from Tuesday's action.

Jayson Tatum asserts his dominance

This was one of those vintage Jayson Tatum takeover games, and it was evident from the opening tip.

The five-time All-Star immediately made his mark on the game with a 16-point first quarter. He has only scored more than 16 in the first quarter once in his career. Coincidentally, that also came against the Nets last February when he dropped 18 and finished with 46.

Tatum tacked on another 15 points in the second to enter the half with 31. That tied his career-high for points in the first half, which he has now accomplished three times. He almost single-handedly outscored the Nets' starting five (32 points) through the first two frames.

The Barclays Center crowd rained MVP chants on Tatum early in the game. The 25-year-old also gave the fans his signature "kiss of death" during his first-half outburst, which you can watch in its entirety below:

Check out Jayson Tatum's impressive performance vs. Brooklyn Nets

Tatum ended up with 41 points on 14-of-26 shooting (5-11 3-PT). It was the 25th 40-point performance of his career and his third of the season.

He also made a major difference on the defensive end, especially with the game on the line in the fourth quarter. He earned a double-double with 14 rebounds to go with five assists, two steals, and a block.

This dominant outing continues what's been a torrid stretch for Tatum. He has put up monster numbers during the Celtics' five-game win streak, as C's radio voice Sean Grande pointed out below:

No Porzingis, no problem

Porzingis was a game-time decision due to a low back contusion and was ruled out with only two games until the All-Star break. Given the 7-foot-2 Latvian's injury history, it probably was a wise decision to give him some rest.

The Celtics handled their business without their star big man. While Tatum dropped 41, the rest of the starting lineup picked up the slack with double-digit scoring.

Brown was the second-highest scorer with 19 points on 7-of-19 shooting. Derrick White and Porzingis' replacement, Al Horford, tallied 16 apiece. Jrue Holiday added 14 on 6-of-10 shooting while dishing 12 assists.

Horford in particular was outstanding. The 37-year-old veteran scored 11 of his 16 points in the first half. He made all six of his shots (2-2 3-PT) while playing stellar defense. He added six rebounds, four assists, and a steal in 36 minutes.

With the Celtics set to play the second night of a back-to-back on Wednesday, Horford almost certainly will sit. That means Boston could be severely short-handed in its frontcourt if Horford, Porzingis, and the recently acquired Xavier Tillman are out. Expect plenty of Luke Kornet and Neemias Queta if that's the case.

Painting a different picture

The Celtics have been scrutinized all season for relying on 3-pointers and not taking enough shots in the paint. Former C's big man Kendrick Perkins added to the criticism Tuesday during ESPN's NBA Today.

”I would love to see more post-ups from the wings and the guards,” Perkins said. “When you think about Jayson Tatum, 6-9, 6-10, wide shoulders and his variety of moves that he has on that low-block and mid-post area. Jrue Holiday is an underrated post-guard. When he gets a player of his size, his strength and his ability to get to his spots is so underrated. It’s times when you see Jaylen Brown’s somewhat disappeared throughout the offense. Again, it’s about finding that balance and not just being a 3-point shooting team.”

Perhaps coach Joe Mazzulla and the Celtics took notice. Their first 16 points scored against Brooklyn came in the paint. They had 20 points in the paint during the first quarter and 32 in the first half.

This actually marked the fourth consecutive game that the Celtics scored at least 18 points in the paint during the first quarter. The stretch has shown that Boston can dominant the game in different ways, not only the 3-ball. However, it's clear that 3-pointers remain a critical part of the Celtics' success as they didn't pull away against the Nets until they started making their shots from beyond the arc.

The C's ended up with 50 points in the paint in the win.

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