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Lillard, Melo have high praise for Tatum after Celtics‘ win originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum continues to earn the respect of his peers, and that again was the case after Tuesday night’s win over the Portland Trail Blazers.

Tatum scored 32 points on 10-for-17 shooting with nine rebounds and five assists. His 3-point shot with 8.5 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference as Boston earned a 116-115 victory to extend its win streak to four games.

Blazers superstar Damian Lillard, who nearly helped Portland pull off a comeback win with a strong fourth quarter, praised Tatum’s growth.

“As a player who’s kinda been in that position where your role is getting bigger as each year goes by early in your career, with experience you get more comfortable,” Lillard said postgame. “He’s been in those situations more often. Those times stacking up and stacking up when he’s missed those shots, and he’s turned the ball over. He’s experienced it. Through that, you just get more and more comfortable.

“I’ve seen his training videos. I know he works on his game. When you put all those things together, you get some moments like tonight. We were down one. I missed a shot I was comfortable with, and then he comes down and makes his. To me, that shows the growth and the level of player he is. When another player leaves the door open, it’s your opportunity to shut it on them. And he does it. I’ve done it to people plenty of times. You’ve got to give credit to him — the previous possession he gets fouled and goes to the free throw line and makes his free throws, and then comes down and hits the shot to close the game. You’ve got to give credit to him and his growth as a player.”

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Tatum is the Celtics’ best player and the closer at the end of games with his ability to hit from the outside or attack the basket and finish at the rim. The 22-year-old All-Star has seen his share of struggles in this role, but as Blazers forward and future Hall of Famer Carmelo Anthony noted, it’s encouraging for Boston to see Tatum get more comfortable as the No. 1 option late in games.

“He’s evolving, definitely,” Anthony said after the game. “I think he’s getting more and more comfortable being that guy and being in that role. He’s embracing it and that’s all that matters. As long as he embraces it and keeps approaching the game the way he does, I think his ceiling is very high and we all see that.”

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Tatum was very appreciative of Lillard’s and Anthony’s kind words.

“I got the utmost respect for both of them and everything they’ve accomplished, especially Dame in recent years,” Tatum said. “Melo was one of my idols. Besides Kobe (Bryant), he was one of my favorite players that I wanted to be like. Any time I get to talk to him or see and especially play against him, I don’t take that for granted.

“Just knowing that I used to watch film of him and study his moves when I was in high school and middle school. That’s one of those things I enjoy, getting respect from some of the guys I used to look up to, and still look up to. That means a lot.”

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