Early start leads to more late heroics for Tatum

Early start leads to more late heroics for Tatum

BOSTON – As the Celtics began preparing for an earlier-than-usual game time on Saturday, Jayson Tatum acknowledged he would have spent that time on a normal game day napping away. 

But when needed, Tatum continues to answer the call as he helped escape the Celtics escape with a 116-111 victory over the Phoenix Suns at TD Garden.


Tatum had 15 points, with six coming early in the fourth quarter at a time when Boston needed an offensive lift from someone.

“Well, he certainly has always been a guy that’s been capable of scoring,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “That was something that you knew coming in; that was, everybody you talked to and watching him it was pretty clear that he was always going to be able to score the ball.”

But what we’ve seen from him in his rookie season is his willingness and ability to score in the fourth, which takes some of the scoring load off Kyrie Irving.

According to NBA.com/stats, Tatum averages 4.4 points scored in the fourth quarter which ranks sixth among all rookies, with the five first-year players ahead of him all logging more minutes than his team in the fourth quarter.

Tatum isn’t really sure why he has been one of the Celtics’ better scorers in the fourth.

“I guess it just happens that way. I don’t really think about it,” Tatum said. “I just try and find my opportunity and attack.”

Said Stevens: “He’s got a good fearlessness; he’s got a great demeanor, and he’s obviously extremely skilled. So, he was able to get to the rim on a couple different occasions and make big plays late.”

Kyrie Irving added, “He has the ability to get to open spots and make timely jump-shots as well as make drives to the basket that are uncanny for a young player.”

Here are some other stars, studs and duds from the 116-111 victory over Phoenix:

Devin Booker: It wasn’t quite like the 70-point explosion we saw last time he was at the TD Garden. But Booker’s scoring was once again impressive. He led all players with 38 points on 16-for-29 shooting from the field, along with five assists and four rebounds.

Kyrie Irving: It was a well-balanced scoring night for the Celtics, but once again it was Irving leading the charge. He led six double-figure scorers for Boston with 19 points, which included five points in the final few minutes.

Jaylen Brown: His scoring really helped Boston get off to a nice start, finishing with 17 points – 10 of which came in the first quarter and 15 by halftime.

Jayson Tatum: Like Irving, Tatum was seemingly at his best scoring the ball in the final few minutes of play. He had 15 points for the game, six of which came in the fourth quarter.

T.J. Warren: It wasn’t one of Warren’s most efficient nights scoring the ball, but he did tally 19 points on 8-for-19 shooting.

Al Horford: Big Al was wheelin’ and dealin’ all game for Boston, finishing with a double-double of 14 points and a career-high 11 assists to go with five rebounds and a blocked shot. 

Celtics rebounding: Boston has been in a bit of a funk lately when it comes to rebounding. The Suns (45-31) were the latest team to get the best of them on the glass. While the Celtics rank 10th this season in rebounds per game (45.0), opponents have gotten the best of them on the boards in their past six games. In that span, Boston averages 36.7 rebounds per game which ranks 28th in the NBA.


Have Celtics solved their second-quarter problem?

Have Celtics solved their second-quarter problem?

Let’s face it.

The second quarter has been a major problem for the Celtics this season.

And then there’s Friday night in a 110-98 victory in Detroit, where the Celtics outscored the Pistons 38-21 in the second to take control of the game.

The 38 points tied a season-high for second-quarter scoring and the +17 scoring margin in the quarter was their best in a second quarter this season.

Boston’s point differential for the season speaks to how, while the Celtics don’t score a ton of points, their defense allows them to have a bit of a scoring cushion most nights.

For the season, Boston’s point differential of +3.7 ranks fourth in the league behind Houston (+8.9), Toronto (+8.3) and Golden State (+8.1).

Still, if you hone in on what the Celtics do in the second quarter...it’s not pretty.

Their scoring differential this season in the second quarter is -1.1, which ranks in the bottom 10 in the NBA (24th specifically).

Here are five under-the-radar storylines you might not be thinking about heading into tonight’s game between the Celtics and Knicks as they close out their regular-season series (Boston leads, 2-1):


With the victory in Detroit, the Celtics won their 20th road game of the season. The victory puts them in select company in the NBA. Only Golden State (22-7) and Houston (21-7) have more road wins or a better road record than the Celtics (20-8).


Seeing Aron Baynes head to the bench and soon after towards the locker room with an elbow injury was not a good look. Following the win at Detroit, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Baynes had not been ruled out from playing tonight. Boston has been atop the NBA most of this season defensively and the play of Baynes has been critical to that success. Prior to the Pistons game, Boston’s defensive rating when Baynes was on the floor was 96.4. When he was not playing, it ballooned to 103.5.


You always have to be on guard when Beasley’s in the building. While his season numbers may suggest he’s a role player coming off the bench who can maybe score a little, don’t be fooled. Beasley is a cold-blooded scoring assassin who can kill a defense with his wide array of scoring techniques. The Celtics saw this up close earlier this season when Beasley dropped a season-high 32 points the Knicks' 102-93 victory over Boston on Dec. 21.


Boston can’t wait to flip the calendar and get on to March, because February has been brutal for the defense. In the four previous months this season, Boston’s defensive rating always ranked among the top-10 each month. But in February, Boston’s defensive rating of 108.6 currently ranks 16th in the NBA. There’s still time to improve upon that before the month is over, but February is likely to go down as Boston’s worst month defensively this season.


When it comes to history, Boston and New York share more than just being among the original teams when the NBA formed in 1946 (In 1946, the NBA had a different name, the Basketball Association of America. Following its third season, the BAA would merge with the National Basketball League to form what is now known as the NBA). They are also the only teams from the league’s inception that did not disband for a period of time, or move to another city.  



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