The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)

Celtics stars Tatum, Brown put on show at All-Star game

- By Tim Reynolds

SALT LAKE CITY — Best record in the NBA. A team that won the Eastern Conference and went to the NBA Finals last season. A pair of All-Stars, including the MVP. And a coach who isn’t an interim coach anymore.

The Boston Celtics have much to like about where they are right now.

Jayson Tatum’s All-Star scoring records — 55 points in the game, 27 points in the third quarter, both numbers that never have been touched by any of the other 449 All-Stars in league history — were the big story coming out of Team Giannis’ 184-175 victory over Team LeBron on Sunday night.

And it might have signaled that the soon-to-be 25-year-old Tatum — Boston’s first All-Star MVP since Larry Bird in 1982 — is ready to take the step from stardom to something even bigger.

“I guess I’m not 19 anymore,” said Tatum, whose birthday is March 3. “But yeah, I say it all the time. I’m extremely grateful and blessed to be in this situation. I’m not too far removed from being a kid in St. Louis with essentiall­y a ball and a dream and dreaming about these moments of being here. And living out that dream, in reality, is hard to describe. I try not to really think about the things I’ve accomplish­ed. I never want to get complacent. I’m always chasing something, chasing more.”

That chase resumes Thursday night, when the Celtics open their postAll-Star slate in Indiana. Boston takes a league-best 42-17 record into the stretch run, a half-game better than Milwaukee (4117) for the top spots in both the East and the NBA. But the Bucks are ailing; Khris Middleton’s knee is a concern, and winning AllStar captain Giannis Antetokoun­mpo played only 20 seconds Sunday night because of a wrist issue.

The Celtics, meanwhile, are soaring. Tatum and Jaylen Brown — playing for Team LeBron — combined for 90 points in the All-Star Game, further solidifyin­g themselves as one of the best pairings in the league right now.

And the last minute of the third quarter of the All-Star Game was basically them playing 1-on-1. Everyone else on the court stopped to let it happen. Brown went first, hitting a stepback from near the right corner. Tatum lost the ball off the dribble on the next possession. They weren’t done; Brown made a 3 over Tatum, hitting him with the “too small” move while laughing. Tatum then made a 3 of his own, and the battle ended when he stopped Brown from getting a shot off before the end-of-quarter buzzer sounded.

“Going against my brother in Jayson, going back and forth, it was like no one was in there at all,” Brown said.

In Boston, the seeds are planted. Brown and Tatum have blossomed into full-grown stars. And the Celtics have reason to have the biggest goal of all down the stretch this season.

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