Jayson Tatum on pace with Larry Bird, John Havlicek in Celtics playoff feat

Tony Nguyen | Boston Celtics
May 12, 2024

The Boston Celtics have reclaimed the lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers in their conference semifinal series after winning Game 3. Jayson Tatum led the way with 33 points, 13 rebounds and six assists to win 106-93, giving Boston a 2-1 advantage.

Tatum has faced lots of criticism for not always stepping up in the playoffs. While he does have his moments of brilliance, he also has games where he can put the Celtics in dire circumstances that result in either losses or bail-outs from teammates. This game in Rocket Mortage FieldHouse was not one of them. Tatum was great and successfully led his squad to the W.

In the Game 3 win over the Cavs, Tatum secured a franchise feat that only Larry Bird and John Havlicek have accomplished, scoring at least 30 points 25 times in the playoffs. A list stuffed with multi-time champions and Hall of Famers looks up at the 26-year-old Tatum, save for two former Finals MVPs.

Bird tops the list at 43 such games while Havlicek has 30 of them. Jaylen Brown joins Tatum on the list at the seventh spot with 11, three away from passing Kevin McHale and six away from passing Paul Pierce. Derrick White joined the very end of the list with his monster Game 4 in this year’s first-round series against the Miami Heat. Even Al Horford, who scored 30 in Game 4 of the 2022 conference semifinals against the Milwaukee Bucks, is up there.

Jayson Tatum builds on impressive feat in Celtics’ Game 3 win vs. Cavs

Tatum may not always be the player to carry the Celtics across the finish line in playoff games, which is something that has happened even in this year’s postseason. He isn’t having the best performance in this series, as Donovan Mitchell clears him there. Although he has lots of moments where he falls well below a superstar level, his well-rounded impact and leadership don’t go unnoticed.

In this series, Tatum leads Boston in rebounds, assists and blocks per game this series. The team around him is the best in the NBA and still an elite squad without starting center Kristaps Porzingis. As much as he may not want to hear it, this Boston team is stacked and expected to win it all, nothing less.

By the end of his time with the Celtics, Tatum will be all over the top of their franchise record books, especially in the playoffs. Being on a postseason team every season and entering the NBA so young — playing at an age as young as 19 years old, which no one in New England would let anyone forget at the time — has allowed him to accumulate a lot of impressive feats. But at the end of the day, what matters most is the thing Tatum has yet to win: a ring. This season offers him his best chance yet to make that happen.

Game 4 between the Celtics and Cavs will be on Monday night at 7:00 PM EST. Boston can put Cleveland on the ropes by going up 3-1 ahead of Game 5 at TD Garden. Can Tatum keep his momentum going and make it 26 playoff games with 30 points?