Jayson Tatum could not have been much more open on the 3-pointer he drilled to put the Celtics up by five with 49.8 seconds left of overtime.
He caught the ball, gathered himself calmly, and swished the high-arcing shot through the bottom of the net for a clutch bucket that sent the TD Garden crowd into a frenzy.
It was the loudest of Tatum’s 45 points.
The shot gave the Celtics a bit of breathing room in a tight matchup between the teams with the top two records in the NBA that ended up being too much for regulation to settle.
Not only did the Celtics best their Western Conference foes, they captured the franchise record for most home wins in a row in the process.
“So there’s been two times that I’ve actually showed like I have a pulse,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said. “Tonight was one of them because of the crowd. I’m not going to say we’re 18-0 without that. We talked about this before a little bit, like we want to create this identity playing Celtic basketball because the fans are really smart.”
“They know when we suck and they’ve seen great basketball for long periods of time,” Mazzulla added. “Usually they’re cheering because you’re doing something great, and over the course of this season we’ve seen moments of greatness, moments of Celtic basketball and I think they’ve responded to that really well.”
These Celtics have won 18 straight at TD Garden. The previous record was held by the 1957-58 Celtics. Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, and Tommy Heinsohn were on that team. Red Auerbach was their coach.
“That’s great, anytime you get a chance to sketch yourself in history,” Celtics forward Jaylen Brown said. “There have been a lot of great teams that have played in the Garden. For us to have the best start ever in franchise history, I think that says a lot about the group. So, it’s an honor to be in that regard.”
Minnesota was forced to fly to Boston on the day of the game, with inclement weather prompting them to stay an extra night in Orlando.
Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels told Yahoo Sports before the game that the last time he played under those kinds of circumstances was “probably during AAU season.”
But these types of things don’t usually affect games, Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said before the game.
“I used to drive a 12-passenger van to a D-II school with 50 people in the stands. So, from my experience it didn’t have any effect on the game. They’re well coached and a tough team. I don’t expect them to be bothered by that at all.”
Mazzulla’s opinion ended up being accurate. The Timberwolves weren’t bothered by the travel; both teams were locked in from the beginning. Fans at TD Garden were treated to a hard fought battle from both sides.
Jaylen Brown began the game with the hot hand, hitting three of his first four 3-point attempts. But Tatum delighted in playing the closer, knocking down 13 of his 14 free-throw attempts and netting 45 points in 42 minutes on 13-of-26 shooting.
The Celtics had a losing record (5-6) at home during the playoffs last year, and their season came to an end with a loss to the Heat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals at TD Garden.
So far this season, things have been different.
“It means a lot. I’ve been already saying this, the last year or two, especially like in the playoffs we haven’t played that great at home,” Tatum said. “Earlier in my career we never really lost at home. So, we’re just trying to get back to that and rewarding the fans who come to support us every night. It’s good to get back on track.”
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