Tatum sinks game-winning layup to lift Celtics past Nets in series opener

By Girald Gaston

PHOTO: USA Today

After squandering a huge lead down the stretch, Jayson Tatum saved the day for the green and white.

The Boston Celtics saw its 15-point lead disappear, but the late game heroics of Tatum propelled them to victory against the gritty Brooklyn Nets, 115-114, in Game 1 of their 2022 NBA Eastern Conference First round series, Sunday (Monday PH time) at TD Garden.

Tatum scored the final two of his 31-point masterpiece at the buzzer, as he spun for a layup off a Marcus Smart dish to turn the chaotic final possession to a nail-biting win. 

Celtics decided not to use its final timeout, and it was Jaylen Brown who first orchestrated the play as he drove to the middle to find Smart at the left wing, which then pumped fake his way to elude two defenders en route to a Tatum game-winner.

It was Tatum’s first career buzzer-beater in the playoffs, and first for the franchise as well since Paul Pierce did it in 2010 against the Miami Heat.

“I thought Marcus Smart was gonna shoot it, then I’ll try to rebound, but he found me and I made a layup. It was just a layup,” the 24-year-old forward said, describing his game-sealing play for the Celtics.

The three-time All-Star not only delivered huge blows on the offensive end, but also made a great defensive stand in the dying seconds of the game, preventing a potential dagger from Kevin Durant.

With 20.8 remaining on the game clock and five ticks on the shot clock, Smart and Al Horford swarmed the scorching-hot Kyrie Irving to force him to pass, and Tatum just locked down Durant, contesting a difficult fadeaway triple try to secure the stop with 13 ticks left, 114-113.

The Celtics, on the final two possessions of the game, just showed why Boston has been topping the Offensive and Defensive metrics since the Allstar break.

Brown led the supporting cast with 23 points, Horford added 20 markers and 15 boards, and Smart contributed 20 points, including four treys and 7 dimes for the Celtics.

Tied at 61-all, the home team came out of the halftime huddle roaring, opening the second half with a 23-8 run courtesy of the hot shooting from beyond-the-arc by Smart, to open up the largest lead of the ball game, 82-69.

The Nets trimmed the deficit to seven with a tough shot of Irving over Brown, 84-91, but Tatum brought the lead back to double-digit with his stepback triple to end the third frame, 96-85. 

With the Celtics leading early in the final canto, Irving continued his offensive onslaught with back-to-back treys, a layup, and a timely dime for a Durant conversion that gave the Nets its first taste of the lead since second quarter, 100-98. 

The Nets hiked its edge to five, 107-102, but the Celtics refused to surrender and evened things up at 111 with 1:03 left in the game. 

Irving, a former Celtic, ignored all the boos all-game long and drilled a three pointer in the left wing to silence the arena anew, 114-111, only for the Celtics’ late rally to emerge.

The 2016 NBA Champion delivered in his return to Boston, tallying a game-high 39 markers, 18 came from the fourth, while Durant added 23 points on an oddly dismal 9-for-24 shooting in a losing effort for the Nets.

Game 2 of the best-of-seven series will take place on Wednesday (Thursday, 7:00 AM PH Time) at TD Garden once again, as the Celtics try to completely protect its home floor and Nets aim to tie the series up.



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