Celtics

Film Study: How Jayson Tatum’s passing led to Jaylen Brown dominant fourth quarter vs. Blazers

(Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

After a red-hot first half by Jayson Tatum (21 points over first 24 minutes) on Sunday afternoon, the Blazers' defense decided to wake up a little bit. Damian Lillard took on the challenge after the break, ensuring that he would make life tougher for Tatum off the dribble (with help from his teammates) in order to avoid the mismatches with Blazers bigs and wings that Tatum dominated in the first half.

The net result was Tatum’s scoring impact become limited in the second half. He was just 2-of-7 from the field over the final 18 minutes of the game, a far cry from his offensive explosion in the first half. With Kemba Walker stuck on the sidelines in the fourth quarter due to his minutes limit, the Celtics still needed Tatum’s shot creation, even if it wasn’t for himself.

The third-year forward delivered on that front in the final frame, posting five of his career-high 8 assists in the fourth quarter to help the C’s recover from a four-point deficit and secure a 128-124 win.

Perhaps the most encouraging part of Tatum’s distribution is where all those passes headed to. Jaylen Brown scored 16 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter, nailing all six of his shots in the frame, including four from 3-point range. How did he get so many clean looks? Tatum ended up dishing out assists on five of his Brown’s six makes in the frame.

“It’s just making reads,” Tatum said. “It’s as simple as making the right pass,” Tatum said after the game. “You see a double team, you’re drawing a lot of attention, somebody’s going to be open. It’s as simple as making the right play. I drove and kicked it to JB – he was open. It was just the right, easy play to make.”

Tatum’s ability to recognize and handle multiple bodies trapping on the perimeter has come a long way as well during the 2019-20 season. Plays like this indicate little panic on his end when three or four bodies show up to help. Instead, there is a smart read to get his teammates a wide-open look. That helped the C’s shoot a scorching 60 percent from 3-point range (18-of-30) on the afternoon.

Tatum’s passing has trended up all season long (he’s seen a slight bump in his assist averages every month) but a willingness to find his running mate on a night while he had going as well before crunch time is a good signal. Brown has been lights out from 3 this season in clutch situations (43 percent) and he’s usually the beneficiary of open looks