Celtics

Karalis: Jayson Tatum is bad at isolation basketball, and he needs to stop

(Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)

The loss to the Charlotte Hornets drove home an important point for the Boston Celtics. 

While the Celtics looked sluggish and out of sorts, relying on individual talent and isolation basketball to power through a tough game, the Hornets looked spry and hungry, using passes to dice through the Celtics defense like a late-night Slap Chop infomercial. 

The passing numbers were so gruesome, this next paragraph should come with a parental warning: explicit statistics label. 

Charlotte threw 311 passes to Boston’s 255. Not only did the Hornets out-assist Boston 39-18, they out potential-assisted them 55-42. Charlotte’s assists created 101 points while Boston’s created 55.

And while you might think the point proven here is that moving the ball is the key to good offense, that’s actually not where I was going with this. Yes, watching the Hornets whip the ball around, drive, and kick their way to a good win did actually stir some jealousy in Celtics fans who wished their team could do that more consistently, but we always knew that’s how Brad Stevens wanted to play. I wouldn’t be surprised if he just showed the team clips of the Hornets’ ball movement in today’s film session and said “do this!” 

No, the point that game proved more than anything is that not only do the Celtics often rely too much on isolation basketball. It’s that they’re really bad at it. 

The Celtics two main guys, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown (mostly Tatum), often default to solo forays when the going gets tough or when they feel too sluggish to move like Charlotte did. They are also not good at that style of basketball, despite what their incredibly high level of talent or young All-Star egos may suggest.