Jayson Tatum has finally strung together two good shooting performances after an uncharacteristically slow start to the season. Yet, Tatum’s performance against the Los Angles Lakers was easily his best of the season thus far, as the Boston Celtics blew out their rivals 130-108.
Tatum entered the game having broken his shooting slump against the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday, November 17th. In a shade under 39 minutes, the All-Star wing scored 34 points on 54.5% shooting from the field and 41.7% shooting from three. However, Tatum had other good-scoring nights earlier in the year but failed to find consistency.
Yet, the Celtics star player came to life against the Lakers, where the lights were shining brightest, scoring 37 points and pulling down eleven rebounds in 33 minutes of play. Tatum’s shooting splits were equally as impressive, with him shooting 50% from the field and 44.4% from three while also getting to the free-throw line 7 times.
“I didn’t think I would be shooting this bad at the beginning of the season, but I was never worried. I put too much work in to ever worry or doubt. Hopefully, I can keep it up,” Tatum told the media after his second hot shooting night in a row.
Tatum found success from a plethora of scoring options; he was everywhere; scoring in the post, off isolations, working off-ball, and pushing the pace in transition. Head coach Ime Udoka was also impressed with his star player’s efforts and spoke of Tatum’s impact when addressing the media after the game.
“We want him to make quick decisions. We like some of the matchups he had, he could use his size, but he did it from everywhere tonight, isolations, post-ups, pick-and-rolls. And so, when he’s extra aggressive like that, getting downhill, he knows the crowd that he draws, they’re going to double him, and he got off the ball, which he’s done all year.”
Tatum: ‘I Tell Myself When I Get on the Floor That I’m the Best Player’
Tatum was clearly the most dominant player on the floor against the Lakers, despite Los Angeles boasting six potential future Hall-Of-Fame players. Using a mixture of physicality and skill, the Celtics wing found ways to dominate his matchups and punish any missed or lackadaisical rotations.
When speaking after the game, Tatum expanded on his mindset and when he began to feel like he belonged at the head of the table.
“I think, honestly, my third season when I made my first All-Star game, and I was in the locker room with LeBron, AD, Harden, Kawhi, and I think that was the first time in my career that I felt like I belonged in this room. Those guys have accomplished so much more and played longer and things like that, but I was in the locker room with them. I was on their team. I think ever since then, I’ve took the approach that I belonged in that locker room, and from now on, whether anybody else believes it, I tell myself when I get on the floor that I’m the best player. I just remember vividly since that game that I’ve kept that mentality with me.”
Despite his slow start to the season, Tatum is clearly a top talent in the NBA, and performances like the one he had against a star-studded Lakers team go a long way to proving that he’s going to be one of the league’s best players for a long time to come.
Tatum Always Brings His Best Against the Lakers
Since entering the NBA, Tatum has faced the Lakers nine times and is averaging 20.7 points, 6.2 boards, and 2.9 dimes per game, while shooting 50% from deep and 52.8% from the field, per StatMuse.
Tatum’s rookie and sophomore year numbers bring his average slightly down, but when looking at his last four games against the purple and gold, we begin to see even more star-caliber production. Tatum has dropped an average of 30.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 3 assists on 50% three-point shooting and 55% from the field.
It’s clear that Tatum relishes the big moments, and games against his former favorite team are as big as they come when you’re representing the city of Boston. Still, despite Tatum being a former Lakers fan, he’s beginning to show a ruthless side to his game, where he’s taking no prisoners on his quest for greatness.
“I think that’s just you going out there and being competitive and trying to win at all costs. You respect the guys on the other team. You see them outside of basketball and things like that. I may not be the most emotional person, but when I step on the floor, I don’t care if it’s Brad Beal; I’m trying to go at him, and that’s somebody I grew up with. I think that’s a mentality you have, when I step on the floor, it’s my team against yours, and after the game, it’s whatever, but these 48 minutes, I ain’t got nothing for you,” Tatum said when discussing his aggressive mindset.
With two good shooting nights on the bounce, Tatum will hope that his poor shooting form has subsided and that he will begin producing at the All-Star level we’ve come to expect from him.
Coming up next for the Tatum and the Celtics is the Oklahoma City Thunder, who the team faces on Saturday, November 20th, in what will be their second night of a back-to-back.