Tatum comes alive, Celtics stay alive

It is rare that anything a player or coach says into a microphone after a game is anything more than extraneous word salad.

So, we give Jayson Tatum and Joe Mazzulla a tip of the cap for the following:

Tatum: “Humbly, I’m one of the best basketball players in the world. Go through struggles, go through slumps. It’s a long game.”

Mazzulla: “The standard that is set for him to where if he’s not scoring, he’s not playing good basketball is wrong.”

Well, at least Tatum didn’t suggest that we who damned him after the first five games of this series take a flying leap into the middle of something.

Tatum found his inner on switch in the fourth quarter. The Celtics teetered on the brink of a defeat that would have sent them into a restless summer of proverbial body slams. Philadelphia led the series, 3-2, and the game, 83-81, having shredded a Celtics lead that reached 16 points in the first half.

And then Tatum, ever humbly, did something more than work hard. After missing 12 of his 13 shots – even a couple open lay-ups – he took a pass from Malcolm Brogdon. With his toes planted squarely outside the arc, he drilled a 3-pointer.

It was his first successful 3-pointer of the night, 43 minutes, 46 seconds since the start of the evening’s business.

With 3:55 left, he hit another 3.

James Harden blocked Tatum’s attempted layup 58 seconds later, noted only because it reinforced the notion that, generally speaking, Tatum had been awful inside the paint since forever ago.

Tatum’s next 3, with 1:53 left, gave the Celtics an eight-point lead, all-but putting the game away.

Then, just to emphasize his jump shot’s return from a hideous hiatus, he made another with 37.6 seconds until recess.

All that remained was the post-game interview.

“Humbly, I’m one of the best basketball players in the world. Go through struggles, go through slumps. It’s a long game.”

And not to forget Mazzulla: “The standard that is set for him to where if he’s not scoring, he’s not playing good basketball is wrong.”

True enough. But if Tatum isn’t scoring, the Celtics tend to lose.

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