Red-hot Jayson Tatum and the Celtics continue their Bulls road trip
Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum enjoyed the far too early chants of “MVP!” he heard after scoring 40 points on Saturday in a win at Orlando.
At the same time, he held back thinking about individual accolades so early in the season.
There’s no denying, however, that Tatum excelled in the first week of play. After scoring 104 points in three games, he’ll look to continue the run on Monday as the undefeated Celtics visit the Chicago Bulls.
Tatum now stands alone in franchise history as the player with the most points in three games. Hall of Famer Larry Bird held the previous standard with 96 to start 1984-85.
Boston fell in the NBA Finals that season, a fate the current Celtics hope to overcome after losing to Golden State in a six-game Finals in June.
Tatum can also attest to this as his personal motivation.
“Since I was a kid, coming to the NBA wasn’t just what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a champion, achieve all of these accolades and accomplishments, and obviously MVP is at the top of that list,” Tatum said. “But I’ve said it a million times and I’ll say it a million more times: all I worry about is getting back to the championship and overcoming this difficulty.
“They sort of go together, don’t they? If we come back to the league or (we’re) one of the top teams, that means I’m probably playing at a high level and everyone else too, and all the individual awards will come like they did last season for all the guys.”
Chicago has lost two straight after a strong stretch streak propelled the team to victory at Miami in the season opener.
Cleveland routed the host Bulls 128-96 on Saturday in Chicago’s home opener, which also marked the season debut for Zach LaVine. Seemingly healthy after recovering from offseason surgery for a left knee injury, LaVine missed the first two games as a precaution.
On Saturday, he paced the Bulls with 23 points in 28 minutes, while adding four assists and three rebounds.
“When I play, I’m not going to try to hold anything back,” LaVine said. “It felt good to come out. My first 100% real time since last year.”
The Bulls trailed as much as 19 points in the first half before cutting the deficit to nine. Ultimately, however, they couldn’t keep up, allowing Cleveland to shoot 56.5% from the field to Chicago’s 40.5%.
“We struggled to get the ball off the ground,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. “It’s part of the game and it can’t dictate our minds defensively.”
Boston leads the all-time series with Chicago 128-107, but is 15 games under the .500 mark in games played in Chicago. The Celtics won two of the Bulls’ three meetings last season.
The Celtics’ Al Horford did not play in Orlando on Saturday as he works on a stiff back. Noah Vonleh got the call at center, making his first start since Nov. 23, 2019, when he played for Minnesota.
Derrick White completed Tatum with 27 points against the Magic, two shy of his career high.