Wizards guard Bradley Beal is like a brother to Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum. Even though Beal is 5 years older than Tatum, the two have been working out together at home in St. Louis for many years. But aside from an occasional, lighthearted, one-on-one sparring session, the two had never really been on opposing teams. Both were curious to see what it would be like, and on Monday they finally found out, along with a national Christmas Day audience.
Tatum made 7 of 9 shots and scored 20 points. Beal was not quite as efficient, going just 10 of 25, but he did score 25 points, and his Washington Wizards did grab a 111-103 win.
“It’s amazing to see his growth, man,” Beal said of Tatum. “I’ve been watching him since he was a pup. Now he’s a man finding his way into the league. He can score the ball in a variety of ways. The crazy thing is I wasn’t impressed, because I always see it. I almost call out his moves. But it’s amazing to see him do it on this level. He’s going to be a special talent, a star in this league for many years for sure.”
Beal visited Tatum at his apartment on Christmas Eve, and they talked about the fact that they had never played against each other. Tatum told Beal that he would not score against him, and Beal told Tatum that he would.
“That’s like my big brother, the person I looked up to since I was younger,” Tatum said. “To get a chance to play against him on Christmas, it was fun.”
The two were not matched up against each other very often, but they relished the moments when they were.
Beal said that he first knew Tatum had NBA potential when Tatum was in middle school. He saw his size, and he saw how he could do things that others simply could not. Still, he did not expect Tatum to thrive as a pro this quickly. The 19-year-old is now averaging 14 points and 5.6 rebounds per game while shooting 51.5 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the 3-point line.
Beal is generally reserved off the court, just as Tatum is. But he transforms into an intense competitor when games begin. Tatum makes that switch, too, but Beal is trying to get him to become a bit more fiery.
“Sometimes he’s a little too cool,” Beal said. “Sometimes he needs to be a straight-up killer and try to take over some games. But it’ll definitely come for him. He has Kyrie [Irving]; he has Gordon [Hayward] to learn from. He has a lot of great guys over there to really follow behind and really mold his game into the way he needs to.”
Wall: Same old Irving
The Celtics and Wizards played an intense seven-game series in the Eastern Conference semifinals last season. Although Washington’s roster mostly remained intact this year, Boston underwent a major makeover.
The biggest change, of course, was swapping out All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas for another All-Star point guard, Irving. Washington’s John Wall, yet another All-Star point guard, said he has noticed a slight difference in Irving as he meshes into the Celtics’ scheme after spending his first six seasons with the Cavaliers.
“He moves a lot more without the ball in the kind of plays they run,” Wall said. “Kind of like what they did with Isaiah. He still can score the ball any way you want him to.”
Wall said Irving has been perhaps the league’s best clutch player this season.
“And there’s not a defense he hasn’t seen,” Wall said. “There’s not a shot he hasn’t made. I just take pride in playing defense and battling against a guy like that, and just trying to make it tough.”
Morris, Brown are ailing
The Celtics announced Tuesday that Marcus Morris will miss Wednesday’s game against the Hornets to continue his knee rehabilitation. Also, forward Jaylen Brown, who was inadvertently hit in the knee by Markieff Morris in the final minutes of Monday’s game, is listed as doubtful for Wednesday because of a sore knee, and Semi Ojeleye, who missed Monday’s game because of back soreness, is also doubtful.
Marcus Morris returned Monday after missing the previous eight games because of knee soreness. He made just 1 of 7 shots and had 2 points and 4 rebounds in 16 minutes. But the Celtics were mostly pleased that he got through the game without pain.
“I tried to keep the rhythm,” Morris said. “Being very cautious with it, so, I’m just trying to figure out when I’m going to play, when I’m not going to play.”