Jayson Tatum, who is still just 19-years old, continues to dazzle Celtics fans on a nightly basis. We already looked at how much better his shooting has been than anticipated from the rookie, but there’s been another element of his game that’s quietly developing into a major weapon for the C’s: shot creation in crunch time.
Look no further than the closing minutes of Sunday’s win over the Toronto Raptors. The No. 3 overall pick scored six of Boston’s 18 points in the final frame, including the basket that proved to be the game-winner with just over a minute remaining.
On the surface, it looked like nothing was there for Tatum after Terry Rozier dished the ball to him following a drive. However, Tatum’s awareness and savvy were far beyond his years in this moment. He saw that Al Horford was out of the lane and had taken the only shot-blocking threat on the floor (Serge Ibaka). With a smaller defender on him (Kyle Lowry) cutting off his right-handed drive and respecting his shot, Tatum blew by the speedy Lowry with his left hand (defenders have to respect his 47.6 percent 3-point shooting now).
Once Tatum got by Lowry, he passed Ibaka, who stayed home on Horford, and the last line of defense was none other than 5-foot-11 point guard Fred Van Fleet. Tatum saw this, went hard at the rim and finished with his right hand as he used his length effectively to put the Celtics up 95-90 with just under two minutes remaining. Boston wouldn't score again in the 95-94 win.
"It's just matchups," Tatum said. "Sometimes when guys get a paint touch and kick it out and the defense is on their heels, that's a sign that it's a good time to attack, not always for your own shot but another paint threat."