Tatum struggled from the perimeter — where he made only 1-of-8 from behind the arc — however, unlike what we’ve seen in the past, Tatum didn’t let it disrupt the Celtics’ offensive flow. He finished with 21 points on 6-of-18 and a team-high eight assists.
As one of Brad Stevens’ key distributors, Tatum made life easier for his teammates.
Celtics’ Brad Stevens: ‘The Ball Was Popping Around The Way That It Hasn’t Been’
Constantly finding guys open, attacking the rim, and withstanding ball pressure, Tatum was a force. Despite missing seven 3-pointers, he got to the free-throw line — where he was a perfect 8-for-8.
“The ball moved right out of the gate and even though we weren’t making shots the first couple of minutes, the ball was popping around the way that it hasn’t been,” Stevens said after Tuesday’s win. “We rewarded guys for running more than we have in the past few weeks and we’ve rewarded guys for cutting more than we have in the last few weeks — that’s a huge part of team-ness, making the right play, and all that other stuff.
“I was encouraged by that.”
Given the Celtics’ recent outings against the Washington Wizards and Detriot Pistons, where Boston tallied 14 and 15 assists, respectively, a 26-assist night against the Nuggets was par for the course, heading into Tuesday. Still, Tatum executed beautifully as point-forward and did it with Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker as his main beneficiaries.
Brown finished with a team-high 27 points on 11-of-20 attempts, including 5-of-10 from deep and Walker added 17 points on 5-of-13 to go with his three triples. In the end, the Celtics trio countered Nuggets All-Star center Nikola Jokic’s (43 points) relentless scoring before putting the finishing touches on a hard-fought, must-needed win at TD Garden.
Jayson Tatum On Aftereffects Of COVID-19: ‘It Messes With Your Breathing’
“I think it messes with your breathing a little bit,” Tatum said Tuesday afternoon. “I have experienced some games where I don’t want to say (I was) struggling to breathe, but, you know, you get fatigued a lot quicker than normal — just running up and down the court a few times; it’s easier to get out of breath, or tired a lot faster.
“I’ve noticed that since I’ve had COVID, it’s just something I’m working on. It’s gotten better since the first game I played but I still deal with it from time to time.”
Shooting a combined 9-of-32 in his last two outings, including 1-of-10 from behind the arc, Tatum’s in a bit of a slump but still averaging a career-high 35.2 minutes per game. However, Tatum knows when you’re an All-Star on a team that’s been struggling as much as the Celtics, playing a lot on a nightly basis, comes with the territory.
“It’s just a long process,” Tatum said. “I’ve talked to other guys that have had it, and they say they experienced the same thing, and it kind of just gets better over time. But as much as we play, I guess it takes a little bit longer.”