Boston, March 2 (US): Jason Tatum is two days away from his 25th birthday and has already accomplished more than many of his peers in their entire careers.
Yet he is not where he wants to be. not yet. Having more nights like Wednesday was a nice prelude to blowing out his birthday candles.
The Associated Press reported that Tatum scored 18 points in a pivotal third quarter and finished the season with 41 points as the Boston Celtics beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 117-113.
“I guess I don’t take the time to think about where I am or the things I’ve accomplished,” said Tatum. “Time really does fly. My sixth season. I’m about to turn 25. So, I’m just trying to enjoy the moment and stay present.”
Tatum added 11 rebounds and eight assists as Boston got its first victory in three games against Cleveland this season. In his 20th career 40-point game, the 24-year-old surpasses Giannis Antetokounmpo for seventh on the NBA’s all-time leading scorer for players under the age of 25.
She helped Tatum outpace fellow All-Star Donovan Mitchell, who scored 44 points and avoided injury after falling in the third quarter.
Al Horford added 23 points and 11 rebounds for Boston. Jaylen Brown finished with 16 points.
Cleveland is down to 13-19 on the road this season and 19-12 against teams above . 500. Darius Garland added 29 points and nine assists for the Cavaliers.
“Tatum is a heck of a player and Brown is a player who knows how to pay you,” Cavaliers coach JB Bickerstaff said.
Mitchell’s scary moment came with less than six minutes left in the third quarter. While driving down the fairway, he lost his footing and stumbled awkwardly onto the court, which resulted in the ball being thrown to the other end by Tatum.
Mitchell was briefly on the floor after the Cavs called a timeout, but was able to walk to the bench. He remained in the game when play resumed, scoring 10 points for Cleveland the next and 19 in the quarter. But his teammates managed to score only seven points, while shooting 3 out of 11 from the field. It was Mitchell’s seventh 40-point game of the season.
Mitchell told reporters afterwards that he felt similar groin pain that sidelined him for six games in January and February.
“There was no way out of the game for me,” said Mitchell. “I’m just trying to find ways to do plays.”
Bickerstaff said Mitchell will continue to be evaluated.
“I kept talking to him,” Bickerstaff said. “He wanted to stay on the ground.” “He knew that once he got out it was going to be difficult for him, and it made it hard for him to get back in. We talked to the medical staff, and he was ready to go, so we kept him there.”
Boston outgained Cleveland 41-26 in the third and saw a three-point advantage in the first half grow to 96-78 going into the fourth.
Cleveland closed to within 107-94 with less than five minutes to play when Marcus Smart was whistled for fouling a loose ball on Mitchell as the two battled for position on the rebound.
Spurred on by petitions from Smart and the entire Celtics bench, coach Joe Mazzola challenged the call. A review showed that Mitchell had grabbed Smart’s arm and pulled it through the air, and the call flipped.
Tatum knocked 3 on the ensuing possession.
Cleveland made one last push late on, getting a straight 3-second catch from Garland to close to 113-108 in the final minute. Boston can shut them down at the foul line.
Cavaliers: Mitchell has recorded his 23rd 30-point game of the season, setting a career-high 30-point game in a single season (2021-22). Garland had 12 points, six assists and two steals in the first half. … Cleveland scored 30 points in the paint in the first half.
Celtics: Improved to 15-18 this season against teams over .500. Went 6 of 7 from the 3-point line in the third quarter. Marcus Smart had three steals in the first half.
Cavaliers: Hosts the Pistons on Saturday.
Celtics: Host Nets on Friday.