Covid survivor Tatum returns to lift Celtics

Boston forward Jayson Tatum driving past Chicago's Otto Porter Jr during the Celtics' 119-103 road victory on Monday. Tatum scored 24 points after recovering from Covid-19, which he described as a mentally tough experience.
Boston forward Jayson Tatum driving past Chicago's Otto Porter Jr during the Celtics' 119-103 road victory on Monday. Tatum scored 24 points after recovering from Covid-19, which he described as a mentally tough experience.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

CHICAGO • Anguish. That was the overriding sentiment that Jayson Tatum felt since returning a positive Covid-19 test over two weeks ago.

The All-Star forward returned after a five-game National Basketball Association (NBA) absence, contributing 24 points as the visiting Boston Celtics defeated the Chicago Bulls 119-103 on Monday.

His return comes at just the right time as six of the Celtics' next seven games are on the road and his team had missed his presence, going 2-3 following his quarantine, which started on Jan 9.

While Tatum is glad to be back on court, he could not help but reflect on his experience with Covid-19, even though the physical symptoms, including a high temperature, went away after the first night.

"It was tough, especially your initial reaction once you find out," he said. "I don't know if it's panic. But you definitely worry because of everything you read about it and hear, how many people it's affected and how many people didn't make it.

"The first four days or so, for lack of a better word, it bothered me. It was on my mind. I was thinking, 'Do I feel OK, do I not feel OK? Can I smell this? Does my chest hurt? Or am I just overthinking'?"

Bolstered by Tatum, who had three three-pointers and five assists in 31 minutes, teammate Jaylen Brown had a team-high 26 points, extending his career-best streak of 25 or more points to five straight games.

While Zach LaVine had a game-high 30 points on 11-for-19 shooting for the Bulls, he also committed six turnovers as the hosts fell to 0-2 on their five-game homestand.

The Celtics are due to travel to San Antonio tomorrow but with Monday's game between the Spurs and New Orleans Pelicans postponed due to Covid-19 protocols, Boston coach Brad Stevens admitted his team were in the dark as to whether that game will go ahead.

"My thought would be we should not fly there until we know. That's the bottom line," he said.

In the Western Conference, NBA champions Los Angeles Lakers, who hold the best record in the league (14-4) this season, stayed top with a 115-108 road win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Finals Most Valuable Player LeBron James scored a season-high 46 points, including 21 in the fourth quarter, as his team improve to 10-0 on the road since the start of the campaign.

The Lakers still have four more away games to play before returning to the Staples Centre for their Feb 4 match-up with the Denver Nuggets.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2021, with the headline 'Covid survivor Tatum returns to lift Celtics'. Subscribe