Celtics-Bulls preview: Tatum benefitting from teammates, environment

Celtics-Bulls preview: Tatum benefitting from teammates, environment

Leading Detroit 84-79 on Sunday, Boston’s Jayson Tatum drained a 3-pointer with less than two minutes to play that gave the Celtics necessary cushion to push back the Pistons’ late-game surge.

It feeds into the narrative that aside from Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum is as clutch a shooter as you’ll find on this Boston Celtics roster in the fourth quarter.

Tatum’s ability to knock down big shots was instrumental in Boston’s 91-81 win over Detroit on Sunday, but it remains to be seen if his late-game clutch play will be needed tonight as the Celtics try and close out their three-game road trip at Chicago which has been among the worst teams in the NBA this season.

And while Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons has been the odds-on favorite for this year’s rookie of the year, Tatum has been a player who has received a significant amount of praise all season.

But in examining Boston’s win over the Pistons, which was aided in part by Tatum’s only make and take in the fourth, Celtics coach Brad Stevens was quick to remind folks afterwards why he was so open. 

“Obviously, the shot he hit, that was off a lot of attention on other guys on the other side of the floor,” Stevens told reporters.

On the play, Marcus Smart had the ball on the court opposite Tatum. Al Horford and Tatum set what looked like a double-screen for Kyrie Irving who made a sharp dive towards the basket. Avery Bradley looped around Horford as Detroit center Andre Drummond reacted to Irving’s dive towards the basket. Horford popped out behind the 3-point line and received a pass from Smart. Tobias Harris, who was defending Tatum, slid over towards a wide-open Horford who then quickly swung the ball to – who else? - a wide open Tatum who did what he does as well as anyone in the NBA and that’s make pressure-packed, fourth-quarter 3-pointers.

“That’s why he was open,” Stevens said. “He (Tatum) benefits from that. And obviously, he’s a good player that we think will get a lot better.”

The same can be said for Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen who is averaging 14.3 points and 7.9 rebounds which ranks fifth and second, respectively, among rookies this season.

There hasn’t been much buzz about his play this season in large part because the Bulls (5-20) have been so bad.

There are lots of words used to describe Tatum – “bad” certainly isn’t one of them.

This season, he has logged 193 minutes in the fourth quarter according to NBA.com/stats. He’s shooting 66.7 percent from the field in the fourth which is tops among all players who have logged at least 150 minutes in the fourth quarter.

And among players who have taken at least 10 3-pointers in the fourth this season, Tatum is shooting a league-best 71.4 percent from the field.

Kyrie Irving, who has been watching Tatum play since the 19-year-old was a junior in high school, believes Tatum’s unexpected penchant for making 3’s – he’s shooting an NBA-best 52.3 percent on 3’s this season – has more to do with his environment than anything else.

“Coach (Mike Krzyzewski of Duke) utilized him the best he could in the offense last year. I think it was predicated on iso-basketball where he caught it on the elbow and was able to play three (small forward), four (power forward) spot,” said Irving who like Tatum, also played for Duke and under Krzyzewski. “And in high school, he was just bigger than everybody. So, why would he need to shoot threes? So, when you’re as skilled as he is, and you’re now in a high-intense, high-talented offense, you get a lot of open looks where you get your feet set. And I think he’s doing a great job of realizing that teams can run him off the line but he can still get a great look off of penetrating or relocating (behind) the three-point line.” 


Jarell Eddie hoping to find permanent home with Celtics


Jarell Eddie hoping to find permanent home with Celtics

BOSTON – It was a pretty standard day in the G-League for Jarell Eddie. 

The Windy City Bulls had a game that night, but a pre-game nap was in order. 

But before he could drift off into a brief slumber, Eddie’s plans – and basketball career – were soon jetting off in another unpredictable direction. 

It was his agent calling to let him know the Boston Celtics were signing him to a 10-day contract for what would be his second stint – sort of – with the Celtics. 

Back in 2014, the Celtics picked up Eddie off waivers only for him to be waived by Boston just a couple days later. 

“I remember I was excited I got picked up off of waivers,” Eddie recalled. “And I was really excited and I thought, ‘okay cool, I’ve got another opportunity. And then a couple days later I wasn’t here. So, it was a real quick stint.”

The fact that he will be on the bench tonight is indeed progress compared to his first time as a Celtic. 

But more than anything, Eddie has a specific strength – shooting – that the Celtics desperately need more of going forward. 

“As we went through this past week, as the flu went through our team, with Kyrie and the shoulder, we wanted to make sure as we begin to head West we had a full complement of guys,” Stevens said. “And his ability to shoot the basketball is unique.”

While it is indeed Eddie’s greatest strength, he’ll need to show that there’s more to his game than just knocking down shots. 

First and foremost, he has to get on the floor which will not be easy. 

One of the reasons the Celtics signed him was because they weren’t sure of the status of Kyrie Irving’s sore left shoulder which kept him sidelined for Boston’s 89-80 loss to Philadelphia on Thursday. 

But Irving’s shoulder has improved to the point where he will return to the Celtics’ lineup today against Orlando. 

Eddie, who has 31 NBA games under his belt from his time in Phoenix and Washington, understands that his opportunities will be limited.

But for him, it’s all about having an opportunity – something the Celtics are open to giving him. 

“It’s just so rewarding to finally get that call that you worked so hard for in the offseason, during the season, while you’re playing in the G-League,” Eddie said. “Going through that grind. So, to get that call is such a reward.”

And now, the focus will be on him to answer that call and do enough in the 10-day window that he’s hoping to extend to provide himself with the one thing that has been missing throughout his pro career – a basketball home. 

“You never get used to it,” he said. “I feel like at this point in my career I’m chasing stability, to be in one place longer than six months or however long. You never get used to it. I know my wife is tired of it.  You’re definitely trying to get somewhere, stick somewhere.” 


Marcus Morris impressed with New England's 'winning culture,' but allegiance is with Eagles


Marcus Morris impressed with New England's 'winning culture,' but allegiance is with Eagles

BOSTON – Boston Celtics forward Marcus Morris isn’t all that different than most football fans in New England as far as being excited about the games today that will decide who moves on to the Super Bowl. 

But Morris’ allegiance lies squarely with the Philadelphia Eagles who will host the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC championship game which will be played after the New England Patriots beat the crap out of  play the Jacksonville Jaguars. 

“Before I got here, I didn’t really know how big sports was in this town,” Morris , who is from Philadelphia, told NBC Sports Boston. “Being here for a couple months, just walking around … it’s a winning culture around here.”

Morris added, “damn near every year they in the Super Bowl or right there. That’s big for the city. It means a lot for everybody.”

And while the last decade or so has not been nearly as great for his hometown, Morris sees progress on several fronts. 

“The Sixers are started to win some games and be more competitive,” Morris said. “Hopefully the Eagles and get it done today, sneak into the Super Bowl and if they get there, you never know what can happen.”