JAYSON Tatum scored 23 of his 50 points in the third quarter and the Boston Celtics punched their playoff ticket with a 118-100 victory over the Washington Wizards in an NBA play-in contest on Tuesday night.
Kemba Walker added 29 points as Boston, which had lost five of its final six regular-season games, claimed the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference bracket. The Celtics will meet the second-seeded Brooklyn Nets in a first-round matchup.
Washington will have one more chance to make the postseason when it hosts the Indiana Pacers on Thursday night. The winner of that contest will land the No. 8 seed and face the top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers in the first round.
Bradley Beal scored 22 points while dealing with a hamstring injury for the Wizards. Russell Westbrook had 20 points, 14 rebounds and five assists but was just 6-of-18 shooting. Ish Smith recorded 17 points and eight rebounds for Washington.
Tristan Thompson added 12 points and 12 rebounds for Boston, which shot 39.6 percent, including 15 of 45 from 3-point range. Walker hit 6 of 14 from long distance and Tatum made 5 of 12.
Daniel Gafford scored 12 points for the Wizards, who made 43.5 percent of their shots but were just 3 of 21 from behind the arc.
Washington, which went 17-6 to finish the season, led 56-55 in the opening minute of the third quarter before the Celtics exploded with 14 straight points as part of a 19-2 burst.
Walker began the spurt with three consecutive 3-pointers and Tatum followed with a 16-footer and a 3-pointer to give Boston a 69-56 lead with 8:09 left.
Gafford scored on a tip-in to interrupt the run, but Tatum answered with a dunk and a 3-pointer as the Celtics took a 74-58 advantage with 7:13 remaining in the quarter.
Tatum knocked down a 22-footer with 28.1 seconds left to cap his huge quarter and give Boston a 90-80 lead entering the final stanza.
Washington trailed by seven early in the fourth quarter, but Boston answered with a 15-4 spurt. Tatum capped the run with a 3-pointer to make it 106-88 with 5:32 left. Just 66 seconds later, Tatum hit two free throws to reach the 50-point mark and boost the lead to 110-90.
Walker hit back-to-back 3-pointers to make it 116-94 with 2:36 left. — Reuters