Jayson Tatum gathered the ball with the Boston Celtics down one and about four second left on the clock.
Nothing that happened next made sense.
He got a pick that switched Khris Middleton, who is 6’7′ and a fine defender, off him and Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is nearly 7 feet tall and is the Defensive Player of the Year, onto him.
Tatum then managed to side-step him and loft a high-arcing 3-pointer over Giannis’ long reach, and bank it home.
Not exactly the plan, but the Celtics will take it, along with a 122-121 opening night win.
“I feel like every shot I shoot should go in,” Tatum said after the game. “Giannis is extremely tall so I tried to get some separation and put some arc on it and follow through.”
Yeah… but… c’mon. Are you telling us that’s what you meant to do?
“Nah, I ain’t try to,” Tatum admitted. “The angle that I had and knowing how tall he is, once I let it go I knew it was going to hit the backboard but I didn’t necessarily try. I didn’t try to do that.”
Whether it’s what he intended to do or not, the shot went in, and Boston came away with the win. Sometimes the greatest plays involve a little bit of luck.
“I was right there to contest. I saw the ball going really high, so I was like, happy about it,” Antetokounmpo said. “But, you know, the basketball gods rewarded them, and he made it.”
Tatum shook off some early shooting trouble to shoot 50% (9-18 FG, 3-8 3PT) in the second half. He and Jaylen Brown combined for 63 points, taking turns taking over late in the game. They banded together to counter a late Antetokounmpo surge that nearly cost the Celtics the game.
“You’re going to be in games like that, and when Giannis hits those threes – those pull-up threes and those catch-and-shoot threes – they’re going to make a comeback,” Brad Stevens said. “We’re certainly not going to out-run him on those, so credit him for that, credit them for that, and we hung in there, took a good hit and kept ticking. It was good.”
The final tick of the clock came after Antetokounmpo missed a free throw that would have sent it to overtime. The miss lets Tatum’s miraculous shot stand as something that can be celebrated rather than some afterthought in a gut-wrenching loss. It let’s the shot be added to Tatum’s career highlight film, one that he hopes adds another banner to those that served as a backdrop to his game-winner.
“Hell of a shot. Big time shot. Those are the type of shots that we trust JT with, that he looks forward to,” Brown said after the game. “I don’t know if he called glass, but I’ll take it.”