Sports

Jayson Tatum’s offensive outburst ignites the U-turn at Celtics

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The Boston Celtics have started the season up and down, topping .500 (9-8) for the first time in 2021-22 after their 111-105 win over Oklahoma City Thunder.

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The absence of Jaylen Brown, who averaged 25.6 points per game this season, was certainly felt as the swingman has now missed eight games in a row with a hamstring strain, putting more pressure on Jayson Tatum, the lion’s share of the offensive .

While Tatum has built solid numbers, his efficiency has taken a blow this season as his opponents continue to draw additional defensive attention to him.

As is so often the case, Tatum finds his best on the biggest stage and his 37-point, 11-rebound performance in the Celtics 130-108 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on national television just might be the stepping stone he needs to be his return to brand valuation at the elite level.

He followed up that feat with another stellar game against the Oklahoma City Thunder with 33 points, eight rebounds and five assists with an efficient 11-of-22 from the field, 6-of-12 from the 3-point line and 5- of -7 at the free throw line – his third game in a row with 33+ points.

His 27 free-throw attempts in the last four games are almost the same as his 28 in the previous six games, with a noticeable improvement in his willingness to attack the basket and seek contact.

Tatum’s efficiency has been below par this season, with an average shooting range of up to a career height of 15.1 feet, according to the basketball reference, as defense forced him to take harder competitive shots from the center as he hit him from the edge keep away. where he tries to hit a career low of 19.2 percent of his shots within one meter of the basket.

For the past three games he’s kept things simple, trying to only try a mid-range jumper in the loss to the Atlanta Hawks while doing the most damage against the Lakers on the edge and off the 3-point line and only four attempted middle-distance jumpers (1-of-4) and a perfect 7-of-7 on the free throw line.

(NBA.com/Stats)

He went out of the mid-range 3-of-6 against the Thunder, but his six 3-points and a flurry of drives to the edge left the Thunder defense guessing all night, with Tatum looking more like the three-tier goalscorer we have . ve come expecting it.

(NBA Getty Images)

“Obviously I feel better, but I’ll just get back into the flow,” said Tatum after the game. “I continued to work my ass off, no days off and the like and just trust what I do. It doesn’t turn out to be perfect every night, but just stay on course and don’t lose sight of the essentials.”

The Celtics have now won seven of their last 10 games and will next host the Rockets at TD Garden before embarking on a tough streak of games, LA Clippers, Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks.

The good news is that Jaylen Brown is expected to return to the stage soon to give them that much-needed boost.

“He’s close, he really wants to play,” said head coach Ime Udoka before the game against the Lakers. “We’ll hold him back a little, me and the medical staff. He really wanted to play tonight – let alone at home in Atlanta – but we have a feeling he needs a little more time. He’s been ramping it up in the last week or so. He’s not quite ready yet, but he’ll be back soon. “

With Brown coming back soon and Tatum firing on all cylinders, the Celtics look on track to gain some momentum to kick off their season.

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