Tatum paces 126-114 Celtics win with 40 points

With Marcus Smart and Jeff Teague both out with injuries, Brad Stevens went deep into his laboratory.

He started Tremont Waters at point guard, played Payton Pritchard in a backup PG role that may very well be his once Kemba Walker returns, and let Jayson Tatum run his share of the offense.

Make that a lot of offense, considering that Tatum’s subsequent 40-point, five-trey, 13-for-13 free throw performance kept the Celtics in a steady flow during their 126-114 win over Toronto in their COVID Tampa home.

It was the third 40-plus performance of Tatum’s career, and gave Pritchard, in particular, an even larger stage for his NBA beginnings. The rookie point guard shot 8-for-13 for his 23 points, and also had a team-high eight assists.

Tatum had 38 points by the end of the third quarter. Pritchard, running the offense down the stretch of the quarter, had 16 points and a team-high seven assists as part of a 100-81 lead.

Tatum’s deep sideline trey over Pascal Siakam highlighted a 9-2 Celtics run that pushed the lead out to 109-83 to usher in garbage time.

Toronto shot 7-for-14 from downtown in the first quarter, led by as many as 13 points over that stretch, and carried a 32-23 edge into the second. But with Tatum’s tightly guarded pull-up three a punctuation point in the effort, the Celtics tied the game at 36-36 on back-to-back Pritchard hoops.

Tatum’s 3-pointer, followed by three free throws with 3:40 left in the half after he returned to the same spot, opened up a 47-42 Celtics lead. Thirty-eight seconds later he buried his third straight bomb, and when Pritchard followed, also from downtown, the Celtics had a 52-42 lead. Grant Williams hit, also from three, and the Celtics were now protecting an 11-point cushion.

They went into the half with a 61-46 lead, as Tatum had 26 for the highest-scoring first half of his career. Pritchard, logging 13 minutes in Smart’s absence, already had 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting.

Tatum opened the Celtics third quarter scoring by driving for a three-point play, came back a minute later with a fadeaway from the left baseline, and continued his attack.

They led by 15 points, pushed it out to 20 on a Pritchard pull-up three, and closed out the fourth with a 100-81 lead.

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