How Jayson Tatum is actually getting better than last season

Nick Friar
November 14, 2019 - 6:30 am
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After Jayson Tatum’s abysmal 1-for-18 shooting performance against the Mavericks on Monday, he didn’t seem bothered in the locker room. Not that he didn’t care, but he wasn’t aloof or anything along those lines.

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Then he posted a video to social media, letting Celtics fans know he was working on his shot over at the Auerbach Center. This led to some social media praise regarding Tatum’s maturity and so on.

Posting a video of a workout isn’t a sign of maturation.

The way Tatum carries himself directly after a bad individual performance, win or loss, is what matters. More importantly, the way he took it to the Wizards in Boston’s 140-133 win on Wednesday is the type of thing Celtics fans should be looking for. (For a complete recap of the Celtics' win, click here.)

First chance Tatum got, he went at the Wizards. He finished the first quarter with 10 points on 5-for-9 shooting.

But, he did miss his two 3-point attempts in the opening quarter.

Rough shooting nights are going to happen, though. Tatum couldn’t get it together from deep on Monday (0-for-3) and he wasn’t much better on Wednesday (1-for-5).

The difference between Wednesday and Monday: he actually finished shots in the paint against Washington. Tatum still missed some, but his approach was better, leading to far more success. He seemed less concerned with drawing contact on the drive and was more focused on finishing.

“It felt good to see some shots go in,” Tatum said after the win. “Better than 1-for-18.”

Now, Tatum wasn’t perfect, despite scoring 23 points. But his mistakes didn’t manifest into something more. He moved on from Monday’s rough showing — like Jaylen Brown got past his 1-for-6 start to finish with 22 points on 9-for-19 shooting against the Wizards.

A performance like Wednesday’s in the wake of Monday’s is the sort thing that matters when looking toward the postseason. Bad nights will happen, but the Celtics won’t survive the playoffs if either Tatum, Brown, Kemba Walker or (when he returns) Gordon Hayward has a bad individual performance, then disappears for the rest of the series.

“That was important,” Walker said about Tatum’s game against Washington. “And I told him that before the game. Every night’s not going to be the best night. It’s all about the bounceback, and he bounced back tonight. It was a huge game, that was a big game for him. That’s important, especially a guy of his age and his caliber. He’s a special talent and I’m really excited (with) the way he handled tonight’s game. His growth is great. … I love the way he works on off-days to improve his game. We need that kid. We need him a lot. We need him to score big points for us and we need him to take on those challenges.”

One bounceback performance does not make a player, but if it’s an accurate depiction of the direction Tatum is heading, the third-year wing is on the right track.

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