BOSTON (AP) — Jayson Tatum scored a career-high 53 points — including 18 in the fourth quarter and overtime — and the Boston Celtics held on to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 145-136 on Friday night.
It was the first 50-point game for the All-Star, who eclipsed his previous high of 41. Jaylen Brown had 26 points, and Marcus Smart added 24 points, eight assists and six rebounds to help Boston post its fourth win in five games.
Boston erased what was a 17-point deficit in the third quarter and led by as many as eight in the fourth before Minnesota rallied to send it to OT.
The Celtics surged again at the start of the extra period and took a 135-129 lead on a 3-pointer by Walker. Minnesota got within 135-132 via a three-point play by D’Angelo Russell. But Boston outscored the Timberwolves 10-4 the rest of the way.
Karl-Anthony Towns led the Timberwolves with 30 points and 12 rebounds. Russell finished with 26 points and Anthony Edwards added 24.
“I thought we fought hard. We gave ourselves some chances,” Russell said. “At the end of the game, all you can ask for is a chance.”
The last time a Celtics player scored 53 points in a game was Isaiah Thomas in Boston’s win over Washington in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals on May 2, 2017. Coach Brad Stevens said he saw symmetry in that performance and Tatum’s on Friday.
“It was a lot like I recall with Isaiah on so many occasions. He just wouldn’t let us lose,” Stevens said. “When we were coming back in the third, you could see he had it.”
Tatum was 16 of 25 from the field (6 of 10 from 3) and connected on 15 of 16 from the free-throw line.
He used his entire offensive toolbox to pick apart the Timberwolves, scoring from mid-range and beyond the arc as well as by slashing to the rim.
Stevens said he was equally impressed with Tatum’s awareness to get the ball to open teammates when Minnesota started to key on him late. He played 41 minutes.
“Tatum was super special tonight and that’s coming off a heavy minute night the night before,” Stevens said. “Don’t mistake his quiet demeanor for not being a competitor. He was a competitor.”
Smart said he thinks the energy that Tatum brought late in the game is something they can carry with them going forward.
“We all recognized what Jayson was doing and how he was going,” Smart said. “We just wanted to make sure we supported him in whatever what we could.”