While the shooting woes continued for Boston Celtics All-Star Jayson Tatum, he and his team kept their composure down the stretch against the Cleveland Cavaliers — which was good enough to squeeze out a 98-92 win at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, Monday night.
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Playing in their second consecutive matchup at Cleveland, the Celtics ultimately split their two-game series with the Cavs despite Tatum’s dreadful shooting slump. After going 8-of-22 from the floor, including 1-of-8 from deep in a disappointing 91-89 loss to the Cavs, Saturday — when the Celtics coughed up a 19-point lead — Tatum and the C’s were in desperate need of a bounce-back win.
However, Tatum couldn’t find consistency on offense, Monday. His shooting — 7-of-20 from the floor, including 2-of-8 from behind the 3-point arc — was almost identical to the kind of scoring production we witnessed Saturday. Still, Jayson found other ways to be effective, which came in the form of eight rebounds, two blocks, and one steal on one end while scoring 23 points and dishing out five assists on the other.
For Celtics big man Al Horford (17 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks) — who picked up much of the slack in the starting lineup, which was without All-Star Jaylen Brown and center Robert Williams (sore knee), who was ruled out of the second half — the team’s demeanor down the stretch was key for victory.
Al Horford On The Celtics’ Fourth-Quarter Composure: ‘Starts a lot with Jayson’
In fact, Horford says it’s what made all the difference, including Tatum’s leadership.
“The fact that we stayed with it, we didn’t get rattled. They were making some tough shots down the stretch,” Horford said after the Celtics’ win, Monday night. “Some really good defense. Calls didn’t go our way, just our group being poised and I think for us that starts a lot with Jayson (Tatum). He’s pretty calm in those moments. Just kind of following that and making sure we finish the game the right way.”
It was calm Tatum that catapulted drives downhill in transition for high percentage looks and trips to the free-throw line — where he shot a perfect 7-for-7. His teammates also did a good job of finding him, especially after back-to-back Cavs turnovers in the first half, which resulted in immediate lead passes to an open Tatum during the fast break.
“It definitely feels good to see some go in,” Tatum said. “I wish some more would go in but it’s going to happen. It’s going to happen soon. But, finding other ways to impact the game, you know, for my team and try to get a win. And that’s what we did. Then, we can move on.”
Jayson Tatum: ‘Starting to All Get On The Same Page’
Now, Tatum is just hoping the Celtics can carry this momentum down to Atlanta for their matchup against the Hawks.
“Especially coming off of last game losing an 18-19-point lead (Saturday) doesn’t leave a good taste,” Tatum added. “So, just wanted to get back in the win column, feel good about yourself going into Atlanta.
“Obviously, we’re competing, communication; I think we’re all starting to get on the same page. Now, if our offense can match our defense, we’ll be in really good shape.”