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Caleb Martin Says He Was Pushed Into Jayson Tatum on Foul

BOSTON — Through 47 minutes, the Celtics mostly dominated Game 1 over the Heat, but it was overshadowed by a collision between Heat forward Caleb Martin and Jayson Tatum with a minute remaining in Boston’s blowout win. Martin, who had run in to chase Bam Adebayo’s miss, clipped and undercut Tatum, sending the Celtics star tumbling onto his back and head.

“Hard foul,” Martin told CLNS Media. “I tried to go help him up. I just heard him hit the floor. Obviously, I know I hit him pretty hard, but momentum was carrying me, I think I got pushed into that direction. But hard foul, tried to pick him up, that’s just what it is. If Jimmy (Butler) was on the floor, I’d have done the same thing I’m sure. It’s just what it is.”

Jaylen Brown confronted Martin and slapped his hand away as Tatum quickly rose to his feet. A skirmish broke out, with Brown and Kristaps Porzingis getting in Martin’s face while Tatum darted to the other end of the floor. He grabbed the ball from Tyler Herro and pointed at the opposite free throw line, where he’d take two more free throws to secure an 18-point lead. Tatum had scored 20 points with 10 rebounds and 10 assists to that point, and though Miami challenged a foul call 30 seconds earlier, Joe Mazzulla did not pull the starters from the game during the timeout.

Mazzulla said Tatum came away from the play fine. In the moment, despite the obvious scare of Boston’s star falling without control, the head coach was excited to see how Tatum and his players would respond. Porzingis, who didn’t know if the hit was intentional or not, embraced the action that followed, and called it fun.

“Just understanding it’s playoff basketball, it’s a physical game playing against a physical team,” Tatum said. “It’s not the last time I’m probably gonna get hit like that or fouled in this series. I wasn’t hurt. You get hit like that, you just get up and I knew we were in the bonus, so go down there and knock the free throws down.”

Though Martin ran at Tatum, Jrue Holiday did appear on replay to extend his arms and at least add momentum to Martin’s crash on the boards. Whatever theories about the timeout Miami that preceded the collision don’t hold up since the Heat called it to challenge a foul call. Martin and Brown received double technicals in the exchange that followed, and the game ended without further incident.

In February, Duncan Robinson and Brown butted heads over a play where the two got tied up and Robinson thought Brown tried to pull at his arm. Earlier in the fourth on Sunday, Derrick White collided hard with an Adebayo screen that leveled him to the floor. White came away from that collision briefly shaken up but able to return to the game. Both teams expected tension and physicality and now, embrace it.

“It’s good to see J.T. is good and ok,” White said. “K.P. and J.B. got his back and you gotta love that. I definitely think it was a good start, walking into the game per se, especially with the long layoff. We just wanted to be aggressive to start and we did a good job of that.”

Bobby Manning

Boston Celtics beat reporter for CLNS Media and host of the Garden Report Celtics Post Game Show. NBA national columnist for Boston Sports Journal. Contributor to SB Nation's CelticsBlog. Host of the Dome Theory Sports and Culture Podcast on CLNS. Syracuse University 2020.

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