Jayson Tatum had 33 points, five rebounds and five assists as the Celtics took a 2-0 series lead over Philadelphia on Wednesday. Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo via AP

After Jayson Tatum led the Boston Celtics to a blowout 128-101 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 2 of their first-round series on Wednesday, a reporter started asking him a question by noting how difficult it is to ask him something new.

The reporter was right. Once again, Tatum’s shotmaking was otherworldly – he hit eight 3-pointers, dropped in a floater and got to the rim. The Celtics were plus-29 in Tatum’s minutes, and along with the bench, he played an important role in the first half after the Sixers roared out to an early lead. He finished with 33 points, five rebounds and five assists.

Tatum’s stardom is not a surprise to anyone any more. He was a star on Wednesday. So … what else is there to say?

“I think we expect it now for sure,” teammate Kemba Walker said. “He’s a superstar. He’s a superstar. He’s been showing it night in, night out. He just makes the right reads, man. He’s a special talent.”

There are a lot of stars in the NBA, but there are only a few superstars – individuals who can single-handedly change the fortune of their franchise.

“Jayson Tatum is unbelievable, man,” center Enes Kanter said. “I have no words for him. This guy is just bringing so much, not just on the court, but bringing so much pure leadership. Every time he’s out there, he’s having fun, he’s making himself better and he’s making everybody else better around him. That’s what makes him really special.”


Tatum was asked if he looks to take over whenever he is on the floor now.

“I mean, I try to go out there and be the best player I can be,” Tatum said. “I have the utmost confidence in myself and my teammates and I know it’s reciprocated. I just try to figure it out. I try to figure out when I need to be more aggressive, when I need to make the right pass. I think the most important thing is I want to be that guy, I want to be able to make the big plays, whether it’s scoring or making the right pass because I’m drawing attention. I think that’s the first step, wanting to be that person. It takes a collective effort. We won this game tonight as a team, and we’ll continue to win as a team.”

Since his poor shooting night against Milwaukee to open the Celtics’ schedule in the bubble, he has shot higher than 50% on 3-pointers. He’s getting to the rim and the free-throw line. The Sixers may struggle against Tatum particularly, but they certainly aren’t alone.

“I‘m playing confident,” Tatum said. “Just trying to be aggressive and trying to make the right play. I say that a lot, but that’s the easiest I can break it down.”

Meanwhile, Tatum may have literally grown. On his NBA profile page, Tatum is listed at 6-foot-8, which feels low if you’ve stood next to him. But asked about small ball in the NBA, Stevens noted that – aside from center – his players aren’t actually that small.

“Some of these teams that are ‘small,’ Tatum is 6-10 and Hayward’s a big guard, Jaylen’s a big guard,” Stevens said. “You kind of go through and they’re not that small versus maybe traditional lineups.”


GORDON HAYWARD said prior to the start of the bubble games that he planned to leave in early September to be with wife Robin for the birth of their fourth child. So far, the Celtics forward hasn’t gone anywhere despite an injury that is expected to keep him out of the lineup until at least mid-September.

A day after the team announced that Hayward would miss approximately four weeks because of a third-degree ankle sprain, he was still in Orlando, pursuing an aggressive treatment plan.

“They’re aggressively treating it, multiple times a day,” Coach Brad Stevens said prior to Game 2. “He got in the pool a little bit today and was able to do some stuff in there, but right now we’re hopeful the swelling goes down, and we get a better idea of the next steps in the next three or four days.”

Marcus Smart moved into the starting lineup, forming a combination with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker and Daniel Theis that the Celtics have used with good results this season.

Stevens acknowledged that the playbook will change to a certain degree.

“We’ve spent a lot of time with this group, and getting good with this group,” said Stevens. “At the same time, 15 guys practice, 17 guys practice every day, so they all wait for their opportunities and their turns. There’s certain things that work really well (with Hayward) we’ll probably take out of our playbook, and there’s other things the other guys do that get better with their strengths. It is what it is, you move on, and help your team play as well as it can.”

THE ODDS just increased that one or more of the young players – Grant Williams’ hustle was very much present in Game 1 in a limited role – will play a larger role now that Hayward is out, possibly until the Eastern Conference finals if the Celtics make it that far.

And most have long since earned the trust of the veterans.

“Tremendous confidence,” said Smart. “We know they’re not going to be perfect just like we’re not going to be perfect, but as long as we are on the same page and playing hard and communicating out there, we think we’ll be all right.”

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