Jayson Tatum’s struggles throughout the NBA Finals have been well documented, his scoring is down, turnovers are up, and the Boston Celtics are one loss away from elimination.
Heading into game six of the NBA Finals, the Celtics will need Tatum to rediscover his confidence, and regain his All-NBA level production, especially when it comes to taking care of the ball. Throughout the series against the Golden State Warriors, the St. Louis native is averaging three turnovers per game and has a total of 12 in five games – taking his playoff total to 95 turnovers, with a possible two games left to play.
It’s those butter fingers that lead Fox Sport’s Skip Bayless to give Tatum a new nickname of “Jayson Turnover” on a recent episode of The Undisputed.
“I believe the NBA Finals are only just beginning in game six. I believe that two legacies are on the line, and I will start with Jayson Turnover’s legacy. He’s been an enormous disappointment, he was the depth of a disappointment in game five because his counterpart, Stephen Curry went 0-for-nine from three, and Tatum went one-for-five and was unable to bring home a game that was begging to be brought home. Would you believe that Tatum in these fourth quarters is 5-of-21?… Still, when you make first-team All-NBA, it’s time to rise, shine, and validate a first-team All-NBA with a finals performance that lives up or even supersedes it,” Bayless said.
At just 24 years old, Tatum has navigated the post-season from hell, helping his team overcome Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets, Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks, and Jimmy Butler’s Miami Heat – yet, despite his heroic performances throughout the post-season, Tatum is being judged on how he’s struggling to cope with the weight of leading a team into the NBA Finals.
Tatum Expecting to Take Better Care of the Ball
The turnovers numbers for Tatum might be breathtaking, but he’s not the only Celtics player struggling to keep control of possession. We’ve seen numerous members of Boston’s roster make the wrong pass or lose their handle when dribbling into traffic.
However, when speaking to the media on June 15, Tatum noted multiple ways in which he and his team can limit their turnovers heading into game six on June 16, starting with maintaining body control when jumping.
“I feel like, from watching film, there are a lot of things. There were some frequency turnovers, right? Some situations where we kept getting in the same spot that was causing turnovers. Maybe if we can stay away from jumping in the air and passing it, jumping off one leg, being more under control, while still playing free, we can do both,” Tatum said.
Considering the Celtics are entering a win-or-go-home scenario on June 16, one would hope they limit their turnovers and force the Warriors into some defensive mistakes.
Tatum Was Named Eastern Conference Finals MVP
You can point to his turnovers all you want, but the fact of the matter is, that Tatum has displayed a vastly improved all-around game throughout the post-season. No longer reliant on isolation basketball to make an impact, the young All-Star is hurting teams in a multitude of ways.
Sure, Tatum is still a box-office offensive threat, but he’s also an impressive playmaker and stern on-ball defender, while his rebounding numbers have improved year on year since entering the NBA.
As such, following his impressive performances against the Heat, Tatum was named the inaugural winner of the Larry Bird award, which is the Eastern Conference Finals MVP – so while his output has fallen during the NBA Finals, to think that this has been a bad post-season from the budding superstar would be foolish.
Furthermore, with a potential two games remaining, Tatum still has time to re-discover his best form and change the narrative along with helping his team lift the Larry O’Brien trophy.