Tatum drops 54 as Celtics top KD, Kyrie and Nets

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BOSTON — Jayson Tatum scored a season-high 54 points — 34 of them in the second half — and the Boston Celtics overcame a rare appearance of both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the Nets lineup, beating Brooklyn 126-120 on Sunday.

Durant played in his second game since mid-January and scored 37 for the Nets to become the 23rd player in NBA history to reach 25,000 points. Irving joined him for just the fourth time all season, scoring 19 in his first game in three weeks and his first in Boston since he was pelted with a water bottle during the playoffs.

Jaylen Brown, who was cleared to return to Boston’s lineup after testing his sprained ankle pregame, scored 21 for the Celtics. He beat the 24-second clock to hit a 3-pointer and give Boston a 121-115 lead in the final minute.

Durant missed a jumper the next time down — complaining that he was fouled, with no luck. Tatum was fouled the next possession and, as “MVP!” chants rang out in the TD Garden, he hit one of two free throws to surpass his previous season high of 51.

The Celtics have won five of their last six and 21 of their last 27 games.

EARLY ON

The Nets scored 11 straight points midway through the third and opened their biggest lead of the game, 90-81, with just over a minute left in the quarter. But Boston scored eight in a row to cut it to one point, then took the lead on the first basket of the fourth.

The Celtics opened a 108-100 lead in the middle of the fourth.

UNHAPPY RETURNS

Irving was booed by Boston fans still irked that he opted out of his contract after professing his love for the city. On his last visit — the Celtics’ first full house since the pandemic began — a fan threw a water bottle at him when he left the court following a playoff victory.

Irving stomped on the Celtics’ leprechaun logo at midcourt after that game. On Sunday, former Celtic Glen “Big Baby” Davis was sitting courtside wearing a T-shirt that read “Respect the Logo.”

TIP-INS

Nets: Irving had missed seven straight games and did not play in the Feb. 8 game against Boston in Brooklyn because of New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine requirements. … Durant missed 21 straight games before returning Thursday night.

Celtics: Nik Stauskas, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2014 draft, signed with Boston over the weekend but did not play. He played in two games for Miami this season and 26 games for the Grand Rapids Gold of the G League. … Signed forwards Malik Fitts and Kelan Martin to their second 10-day contracts. They each have played in one game for the Celtics and did not get off the bench on Sunday.

UP NEXT

Nets: At Charlotte on Tuesday.

Celtics: At Charlotte on Wednesday.

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