Celtics

Karalis: Jayson Tatum’s decisive destruction of Washington shows how a superstar is supposed to play

Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Jayson Tatum is a casually great basketball player. He’s not physically overpowering like Zion Williamson. He doesn’t have any one thing, like a Steph Curry jumper, that steals an opponent’s soul. 

He just hits the court, glides around, and uses his long arms and big strides to get to spots and hit shots. 

Sometimes that easy tempo with which he plays can become hypnotic. Sometimes it can also work against him. He has so many weapons to use that he almost becomes that person looking at a menu in a restaurant saying “I have no idea what I want.” It’s a paralysis of choice. And then he does what everyone does in those situations. 

He goes with the same old thing. 

Which is why it was almost surprising that Tatum spent the end fourth quarter attacking the rim instead of setting up fadeaways and side-step 3-pointers. He loves those shots, but when it came time to carry the Boston Celtics to a win they almost threw away, he put his head down and attacked. 

“I thought tonight that Jayson’s will shone through,” Brad Stevens said. “It’s been a tough stretch for Jayson, but this matters to him and he wants to win and he made big plays.”

Sometimes when players don’t have time to think, they react their way to something great. You might notice it when it’s an end-of-shot clock jumper that falls through for a guy on an 0-for-10 night; instead of thinking about his shot and trying to sort of aim it through, he just rises up and drills it. 

This, in a way, is what Jayson Tatum was facing down the stretch of this game. When the lack of time on the clock demanded an immediate “shoot it or drive it” response from Tatum, he just took what was there.

Six of Tatum’s 11 fourth-quarter points came in the final 43 seconds of the game, and all of them