Friday’s game against the Bucks wasn’t the worst shooting performance of Jayson Tatum’s career purely based on a technicality. He was credited with an extra bucket since he was the only Celtic in the vicinity when the Bucks accidentally tipped in a Jaylen Brown missed jump shot early in the fourth quarter.
Without that bucket, Tatum went 1-of-17 from the field, mustering a mere three points in first real action in over four months.
The performance hit hard as the sole weak spot among the starters in a 119-112 defeat to the Bucks but it also left Tatum poking fun at himself after a day to reflect on his struggles.
“I think I can’t get any worse, so I think I’ll play better tomorrow,” Tatum said with a smile.
It was a perfect storm of misery for Tatum as a flat jump shot (0-of-4 from deep) kept his confidence low from the perimeter. That forced him to seek out opportunities in the paint that fell right into the Bucks gameplan as Brook Lopez (six blocks) and other long Buck defenders teamed up to ensure Tatum saw sparse clean looks in the paint.
“I mean, he’s seen all these coverages before. Some nights it’s just not your night,” Brad Stevens said Saturday. “He’s an unreal basketball player. It doesn’t mean that every day the ball will go in at 60%, so at the end of the day, he’ll watch, which he already has, he’ll learn what he needs to do, and try to do it better next time. One of the things that I think all of these guys that are great understand is not every day is your day. Sometimes you have to be able to learn, laugh it off, and move on.”
Tatum’s struggles were so apparent that some had even called for a Tatum benching late in the contest given his high usage rate (team-high 18 shots). Stevens was not afraid to back his star however for how he handled a rough shooting night.
“Yesterday he had the ball a lot in the last five minutes of the game,” Stevens said. “We think he’ll always be able to do that. We just think he has a special makeup about him. On a night when he’s struggling he can make a huge play -- on a night when he’s rolling he can make a huge play, because he doesn’t get too high or too low. He’s special, and that’s why I lose no sleep over nights like last night.”
The key now will be with how Tatum reacts to the struggles that have been present through two scrimmage games in Orlando as well. The speedy every other day nature of the bubble seeding games schedule will make it easier for the All-Star to dwell less on a bad night.
“It’s just all about watching film,” Tatum said. “Watch about what I could have done better yesterday and try to implement it to the next game, and that’s what I’m going to try to do tomorrow. We play every other day, so you always have a chance to bounce back and forget about the last game.
“Can’t do nothing about it now, you just got to focus on the next game and whether you play good or bad, I think that’s always how I approach it. That’s just how I approach it. It is what it is.”
Against a Blazers frontcourt that is starting Carmelo Anthony and Zach Collins, Tatum will be positioned well for