On a day when the TD Garden was full of stars for both Boston and Brooklyn, no one shined brighter than 24-year-old Jayson Tatum.
Tatum wasn’t just good.
He was Top-5 Tatum good; good enough to outduel one of the all-time great scorers, Kevin Durant.
And on top of that?
Boston got the win as Tatum scored a season-high 54 points in leading Boston to a 126-120 win over Brooklyn. He tied Larry Bird for the franchise record in games with at least 50 points scored (4).
Kevin Durant, who cracked the 25,000-point barrier in near-record time (only six players got there sooner than he did, in NBA history) on Sunday, led the Nets with 35 points.
A 35-point game for Durant would be the talk of the game most of the time.
But after Tatum’s torching of the Brooklyn defense, Durant fielded his share of post-game press conference questions about - who else? - Jayson Tatum.
“He’s a shot-maker,” Durant told reporters after the game. “He’s an elite shot-maker.”
And Tatum is delivering elite performances against all comers, from the super-average to superstars such as Durant.
“Taking that Alpha approach to be the best guy on the court,” said Celtics head coach Ime Udoka. “That’s what’s needed against some of these high-level opponents. We’re not making it a one-on-one thing… he (Tatum) wants to play well and takes pride in it.”
Here are some of the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 126-120 win, their 14th victory in their last 16 games.
Jayson Tatum: Easily the best player on the floor which is saying a lot when you consider he was out there going toe-to-toe with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Durant, Irving, Bruce Brown…Tatum was a problem for each and every defender Brooklyn threw his way. He finished the game with 54 points which included eight, 3-pointers. Tatum also grabbed five rebounds to go with three assists.
Kevin Durant: Even in defeat, Durant makes the game look so easy. While Tatum was the best player on the floor, Durant still made a significant impact on the game with a team-high 35 points to go with eight assists and six rebounds.
Marcus Smart: The birthday boy (he turned 28 years old on Sunday) was in a giving mood, finishing with a near double-double of 14 points and nine assists.
Bruce Brown: The Boston native did a little bit of everything for the Brooklyn Nets, finishing with 16 points on 6-for-10 shooting to go with six rebounds, five assists, a steal and a blocked shot.
Robert Williams III: TimeLord did not put up eye-popping stats but there was no mistaking his impact on the game at both ends of the floor. For the game, Williams had a near double-double with 10 points and eight rebounds. He also had a game-high five blocked shots.
Kyrie Irving: His numbers - 19 points, six assists, four rebounds and three steals - look as though he had a good game. But Irving’s impact was minimal, at best. The Nets needed him to deliver more than just a decent game. They needed him to be a basketball assassin and he wasn’t.