Gordon Hayward was the star of the Boston Celtics' thrilling 111-109 road win over the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night, and deservedly so after he hit what ended up being the game-winning shot in the final 10 seconds.
However, if not for the clutch play of Jayson Tatum late in the fourth quarter, the C's might have blown that game and potentially undone some of the momentum created from Tuesday's blowout victory over the Golden State Warriors.
Tatum scored six points over the final 90 seconds of Wednesday's victory. He hit a pair of free throws to increase Boston's lead to 105-101 with 1:27 left to play. Kings guard Buddy Hield came down and hit a 3-pointer on the next possession to bring Sacramento within one point of the lead, but Tatum put the C's back up three by sinking a tough turnaround jumper with 47.9 seconds remaining.
The Kings would again trim the Celtics lead to one, and Tatum was fouled with 15.9 seconds left and given a chance to extend the advantage back to three points. He again sunk both free throws, and the C's went up 109-106.
Tatum hasn't even played two full seasons as a pro and he's already proven to be a dependable late-game player. We saw it in the playoffs last season, and we're seeing more evidence during the 2018-19 campaign. He's actually shooting 90.9 percent from the foul line in the final two minutes of games where the leading margin is five points or fewer, per NBA.com.
Here's Kyrie Irving talking about Tatum's ability in the clutch from December of last season, which was pretty early in the 21-year-old forward's career.
Kyrie Irving on clutch Jayson Tatum: "Some people have it and some people don't. It's just as simple as that. I think he's pretty much shown that he can play, as people say, with the big boys at the end of the game." pic.twitter.com/i5yNtXewc3
— Chris Forsberg (@ChrisForsberg_) December 11, 2017
Tatum is one of the rare young players who thrives in these high-pressure moments and doesn't try to force anything. He remains cool, calm and collected in the clutch, and that should be a huge benefit to the Celtics come playoff time.
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