Tatum’s Time: Celtics star promises to bounce back in Finals | Sports News


By KYLE HIGHTOWER, AP Sports Reporter

BOSTON (AP) — Jayson Tatum knows he took his game to a new level in his fifth NBA season, forging his way into the top echelon of league playmakers as the Boston Celtics’ go-to scorer .

The three-time All-Star also sometimes knows he wasn’t good enough against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals and needs to find a way to elevate his game if he hopes to help Boston win the 18th. franchise championship.

He doesn’t care about the spotlight or the burden that comes with it.

“I just have to be better,” Tatum said after Golden State’s 107-97 Game 4 win on Friday night to tie the series. “I know I can be better, so it’s not like me, myself or my team asking me to do something that I’m not capable of. They know the level and I know the level at which I can to play.

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The Celtics had the opportunity to take a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals and knock the Warriors down a hole only one team in 36 tries has ever dug – the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers, who rallied 3-1 to beat Golden State in seven games.

Instead, Boston went collectively cold late in the fourth quarter as the Warriors’ Stephen Curry put the finishing touches on what could be his signature playoff moment in front of a stunned TD Garden crowd.

Tatum tried, but this time couldn’t match Curry’s dominance.

He finished with 23 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. But Tatum had his second-worst shooting performance in the series – just 8 of 23 from the field – and didn’t take care of the ball; he had six of Boston’s 16 turnovers that led to 19 Golden State points.

He was also a virtual non-factor in the final quarter, scoring just three points on 1-of-5 shooting with a turnover. It hurt more after the Celtics took a 94-90 lead to miss all six of their shots on a 10-0 Warriors run.

As Tatum is gone, so are the Celtics in this series.

In the Celtics’ two wins, he’s averaging 27 points and shooting 45% from the field. In their two losses, those numbers drop to 22 points per game and 34 percent from the field.

Boston coach Ime Udoka said part of the problem he sees is that Tatum starts forcing things that aren’t there when his shots don’t come in.

“Sometimes he looks for faults. It’s a team that charges in some games. He finds outlets. Shooting two, three guys,” Udoka said. “It’s the balance between being aggressive and picking his spots and doing what he’s done in previous games, which is getting kicked out and getting stares wide open.”

The Warriors basically did many of the same things they did against him all series — sending in multiple defenders and switching different players on him in 1-on-1 situations.

Tatum thinks his problems are because he got stuck in a bullet trap.

“We’ve all done it at times. We just have to move,” he said. “I think that’s where we are most effective, when everyone is moving.”

In Game 1, Tatum shot a measly 3 of 17 from the field, but was able to create shots for his teammates by penetrating and passing off double teams.

In Friday’s loss, he seemed rushed at times and never managed to settle into a rhythm in the second half because of his turnovers.

It was true that he was going for jump shots or in the paint, where he had five missed shot attempts and seemed frustrated with non-foul calls.

“When I have space, I’m open, I have to shoot,” Tatum said. “Obviously every time I hold it too long they charge up and things like that. I think it’s all about making quick decisions, don’t turn down any open eyes, any daylight I have, just keep trying to make the right pass.

Playmaker Marcus Smart said the strongest message he and his teammates continue to send to Tatum is that they are confident he will pull through.

“We constantly let him know he’s continuing,” Smart said. “’It’s not the first time you’ve had a crisis. It won’t be the last time. You have to understand it. We trust you, we believe in you. That’s what you’re made for. Jayson must understand that. We have to do a good job of helping him.

Tatum takes on the challenge of finding his best basketball.

“It’s kind of up to me to do it more often to help my team in the best way possible,” he said. “It’s not too much pressure at all. It’s kind of my job. »

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