As impressive as the likes of Luka Doncic, Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo have been in recent weeks, don’t count Jayson Tatum out of the MVP race just yet.
Tatum racked up his second career triple-double to lead the Boston Celtics to a 116-88 blowout win over Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks, ending their seven-game winning streak.
The Celtics star finished with 29 points including 11-of-12 shooting from the free throw line with 14 rebounds, 10 assists, a steal and two blocks in a huge performance.
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Meanwhile Doncic, who went into the game scorching-hot – averaging 41.7 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists over the last week – was well below his form.
He posted 23 points, nine rebounds and three assists and missed all six of his three-point attempts, not playing at all in the fourth quarter such was the lopsided result.
In addition to Boston getting the win, Tatum won the battle within the battle of the MVP contenders.
“We just tried to make it tough for him, he’s obviously a hell of a player,” Tatum said post-match on Boston shutting down Doncic.
“We just had to throw fresh bodies at him and couldn’t give him the same looks the whole game and contest and live with the result.”
Boston blew out its lead to double figures in the second quarter and didn’t look back from that stage as the Mavericks didn’t get any closer than 13 points for the rest of the game.
With it, the Celtics consolidated their NBA-best record, improving to 27-12 and sweeping the season series against the Mavericks.
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Joe Mazzulla’s team also crucially bounced back from consecutive losses including a shock 150-117 blowout against OKC.
“It was a tough one the other day, we lost two in a row. But we had a responsibility to respond and play better,” Tatum added.
“Those last two games hasn’t defined our season. We’re still one of the best teams and we just had to come out and play like it and get back to playing the way we know how.”
The loss saw the Mavericks fall to 22-17, but they remain fourth in the West.
It came on a day Tatum was voted fourth among Eastern Conference forwards in the first release of the fan All-Star voting, while Doncic was second among guards in the West.
The Memphis Grizzlies held off a late run from the Orlando Magic to win 123-115 on the road behind a combined 63 points from Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr.
They star duo led the 25-13 Grizzlies to a fifth-straight win, climbing into outright first in the Western Conference.
They weren’t the only ones to have big performances though, with Orlando’s Pick 1 draftee Paolo Banchero continuing his brilliant rookie season with 30 points and nine rebounds in the loss.
According to StatMuse, Banchero now also has as many 30-point games as every other rookie combined this season (four).
Banchero has averaged an outstanding 21 points per game and 6.7 rebounds, breaking several rookie records in the process.
While the Magic, who fell to 14-25, didn’t get the win, it was further proof the rebuilding team has a future superstar on its hands.
In Houston, Lauri Markkanen went off for a career-best 49 points to lead the Utah Jazz past the Rockets 131-114.
Markkanen added eight rebounds and six threes and shot 15-of-27 from the field in his best game yet.
It continues the Finish star’s brilliant first season in Utah since being traded from Cleveland last off-season as the Jazz improved to 19-21 to stay in touch with the West’s top eight.
Jalen Green recorded 30 points, four rebounds and four assists for the Rockets, who dropped their consecutive game, while Kevin Porter Jr. (23 points) and Alperen Sengun (20 points, 14 boards) also battled hard.
GRIZZLIES 123 MAGIC 115
CELTICS 124 MAVERICKS 94
JAZZ 131 ROCKETS 114
CLIPPERS – NUGGETS