NBA: Tatum-powered Celtics outlast Warriors in OT for eighth straight win

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum after his three point basket against the Golden State Warriors in overtime at TD Garden. PHOTO: REUTERS

BOSTON – Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum did not want to look back on the past. The painful 4-2 loss to the Golden State Warriors in last season’s National Basketball Association Finals was all over in his mind now.

Fast-forward seven months, the Celtics are currently the best team not only in the Eastern Conference but also the league, while the Warriors are languishing in ninth place in the West.

The two sides clashed again in Boston on Thursday night, with the Celtics clinching a gritty 121-118 overtime win.

Despite the difference in their current positions, Tatum knows that any game against the Warriors will always be a tough one.

“It was a crazy game,” said the forward, who scored 34 points with a career-high 19 rebounds, insisting that the contest was not about revenge.

“The fact of the matter is they beat us in the championship, there’s nothing we can do about that. We can’t bring that back. We can’t go back in time and change that.

“So we didn’t look at this as a rematch of the Finals. It’s just one game. This was a regular-season game against a great team that’s really well coached, and it’s just two tough-minded teams playing against each other.”

Tatum and Jaylen Brown came alive late for the Celtics, whose eighth straight win pushed their league-leading record to 34-12.

Even as the duo struggled to make shots early, Boston built a 10-point lead midway through the second quarter.

But the Warriors chipped away and went ahead 55-54 on Stephen Curry’s shot from the half-court logo at the half-time buzzer.

It looked like the Warriors, who dominated Boston in a 123-107 December victory in San Francisco, had the Celtics’ number again as they pulled away to lead by as many as 11 points in the third quarter.

They were up by nine early in the fourth but Tatum’s running dunk pulled Boston within two with two minutes remaining.

Al Horford came up with a three-pointer and a big block and Brown’s three-pointer tied it at 106-106 with 18.6sec left in regulation.

Marcus Smart’s opening basket of overtime gave the Celtics their first lead since the first half.

After a three-pointer from Curry put the Warriors up by one, Brown drove for a layup that put Boston back on top for good with 2min 23sec remaining.

Golden State had a chance to force a second overtime, but Jordan Poole missed a half-court shot at the buzzer.

While Tatum played down the magnitude of the game, Horford, who had 20 points and 10 rebounds, was much more hyped about the victory.

“You know, I wanted to come out here, and I wanted to win. I wanted to win really bad,” he said.

“It’s a regular season. It’s just one game. It’s over. But it’s an important game.”

Brown, returning from a three-game absence because of groin tightness, finished with 16 points – including 12 in the fourth quarter and overtime.

Curry paced the Warriors with 29 points. Klay Thompson and Poole added 24 apiece.

Andrew Wiggins scored 20 for Golden State, who received 11 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists from Draymond Green.

The defeat was another road blow for the Warriors, who fell to 22-23 overall and 5-18 on the road.

They have yet to beat a team with a winning record on the road this season.

“Disappointed that we didn’t close the game but I know we can do this,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.

“Better now than in the play-offs.” AFP, REUTERS

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