After scoring a career-high 39 points before Christmas, Jayson Tatum thought he would not get to exceed that mark when Kemba Walker checked in at the end of the third quarter and pointed at the game's leading scorer to come out against the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday night.
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But Walker stopped Tatum from walking off and sent Gordon Hayward off the court instead.
In a blowout over the New Orleans Pelicans, and the Boston Celtics up 108-73 at the time, Tatum and the rest of the starters were unlikely to see much playing time in the final frame, but not even head coach Brad Stevens would deny his swingman the opportunity to surpass his previous high scoring mark.
On the next possession, Walker called for a Tatum high post-up, and the forward pivoted, faked right then drove left on Lonzo Ball for a left-handed layup and his 41st point.
"Obviously, it feels good" Tatum said after the game.
"I never try to get too high or too low. I feel like I've got a long way to go, and the guys I look up to, they have these nights more often than not. So, obviously, it feels good, but I need to do it more often and try to be more consistent."
Coach Stevens was also keen to praise Tatum. He said: "He is ever-improving. He had a couple of really good finishes with both hands earlier in the game. But he also had the right mindset to attack.
"It helps when you start off these 40 point games with a couple of layups, a couple off his effort and then he got a couple of steals and now the basket feels a bit bigger. But the finishing is going to be really important. We've talked a lot about how best to do that, and he's had a great year, but I think he can get better."
This is Tatum's third year in the NBA, and he has seen his scoring improve from 13 points in 2017-18, to 15 in 2018-19, and is averaging 20 points per game this season. Beyond that, he is among the league leaders in plus/minus and is averaging more assists, rebounds and blocks than any previous year.