Truth Bomb Dropped on Kevin Durant & Celtics’ Jayson Tatum: ‘It’s Not Even Close’

Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics and Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets

Getty Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics and Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets.

A lot of factors have gone into how the Boston Celtics currently have a 2-0 lead over the Brooklyn Nets, but the one that has stood out among all the others has been the matchup between Jayson Tatum and Kevin Durant. More specifically, how badly Tatum is outplaying Durant in their 1-on-1 matchup.

Durant, who’s largely been hailed as arguably the greatest scorer in NBA history, has shockingly been a little off his game, to say the least. Even if his scoring numbers overall haven’t been too bad in this series thus far – 25 points a game – but his shooting percentages of 30.5 percent from the field and 35 percent from distance are definitely not numbers you would normally see from Kevin Durant.

Compared to Tatum, who’s putting up the same scoring averages on better shooting percentages – almost 41 percent from the field and 41.5 percent from three – that’s not a good look.

When Durant’s putting up those numbers like those going up against one of the league’s younger superstars, not only is it noticeable, but spectators start drawing conclusions. Two games into this Celtics-Nets series, an Eastern Conference scout who shared his observations with Sam Amick thus far had this to say about the Durant-Tatum matchup:

“I’ll tell you right now, obviously, I think most people think if you (evaluate) his career that Durant is a better player than (the 24-year-old) Tatum. I mean, if nothing else, it’s the track record. But if you gave me a choice of which one I would take from this point forward, it’s not even close to me. … To me, if you’re watching the game and you didn’t know who these guys were, I’m not watching Durant (and saying), “That’s the best player on the floor.” I’m not so sure Tatum’s not (the best).”

The fact that scouts are now saying that Tatum has arguably surpassed Durant as a player speaks volumes for how far Tatum has come as a player. This series is far from over, but Tatum’s ascent into superstardom has just begun.

Western Conference Scout Praises Celtics Defense on Durant

While Tatum has gotten the upper hand thus far in his matchup against Durant, he is largely just one guy, and one guy alone isn’t single-handedly responsible for shutting down a scoring machine like Kevin Durant. While Tatum’s defense is primarily the reason why Durant has had trouble putting up his usual numbers, the Celtics’ defense, in general, has expertly prevented Durant from getting warmed up.

A Western Conference scout who also spoke with Amick elaborated more on how they’ve shut him down.

“I counted six guys that I had that guarded him. I believe it was Brown, Tatum, Smart, Grant Williams, Theis, and Horford. So there’s six guys there that bring something different to the table, whether some are heavier, some are smaller, some are longer, some get under you. And you try to figure one guy out, and then two or three possessions later you switch, and now they bring someone else at you. This guy has seen all this stuff throughout the course of his career, but he might be thrown two or three different types of defenders within a two- to three-minute span of the game. That all affects your rhythm. To me, the biggest thing is he has never gotten in a rhythm.”

Since this series started, it’s abundantly clear that the Celtics’ primary focus is making sure neither Durant nor Kyrie Irving gets into a groove at any time. Outside of the fourth quarter of Game 1 where Kyrie went off, they’ve done just that. Bruce Brown and Goran Dragic have done some damage offensively, but the Celtics will live with those two doing the scoring because it hasn’t hurt them yet.

Until either Brooklyn figures it out or someone not named Durant or Irving can make Boston pay, it will probably stay this way.

Both Scouts Attribute Durant’s Struggles to Coaching

It’s times like these where you realize just because you have someone like Kevin Durant on your team does not guarantee either an automatic victory or a dynamite performance from him. Both scouts who spoke to Sam Amick attributed Durant’s subpar overall performance in this series to Head Coach Steve Nash’s offensive system.

The Eastern Conference scout had this to say about Nash’s schemes.

“Frankly, I don’t know that (Durant’s) getting a lot of help on the coaching side, I don’t think they’re doing a whole lot to put him in position to get him better shots besides just, you know, having the ball out front and having to beat his guy.”

The Western Conference scout went into a little more detail regarding why Durant hasn’t gotten going. He places the blame on Brooklyn’s insistence on running ISO for him, which was not how Golden State used him.

“I think (this approach with Durant is) very sustainable for the series, because of the fact that there’s two things working in concert together here (in the Celtics’ favor): There’s the Boston personnel, and the length and defensive disposition, but also the lack of creativity and movements in the Brooklyn offense. Those two things aren’t changing over the next 10 days.

If this was Kevin Durant on the Warriors, they would figure it out, because there was an offensive system in place, and the ball moves. But the fact that this is the way they played all year, as this ‘iso’ team, makes it seem like that. You have some faith in Durant, yes, but he might get it going or might start feeling good, but then Kyrie might dominate the next six possessions, and that negates all of that.”

If Nash thinks running an ISO-heavy offense is the best way to run things for Brooklyn against Boston’s airtight defense – who is getting Robert Williams III back today – then he deserves a fair amount of the blame. However, Brooklyn does not currently have much offensive firepower outside of his two superstars. No matter who they put out there, there will either be a lack of spacing or a lack of defensive personnel on the floor.

Nash could definitely do better, but with Boston, it’s a pick your poison situation.

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