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.


Celtics defense doesn't rise to occasion with Kyrie out vs. Bulls

Celtics defense doesn't rise to occasion with Kyrie out vs. Bulls

New experiences are a given when you have as many new faces as the Boston Celtics have this season.

Monday’s 108-85 loss to the Chicago Bulls?

Yup, that’s a new one.

You can rest assured the Celtics won’t dwell on this loss too long. But that doesn’t mean it’ll be forgotten quickly, either.


As the Boston Celtics piled up the wins this season (they still lead the East with a 23-6 record), head coach Brad Stevens has tried to keep his team humble, reminding them that if they don’t play well they can be beat by anybody … even the Bulls.

Even in defeat, Boston has managed to at least give themselves a shot at winning with good energy and effort from most if not every player that steps on the court.

“We have a young group, so we usually have a lot of energy,” Boston’s Jaylen Brown told reporters afterwards. “We just couldn’t find it tonight. We start off bad, we usually find a way to come back and rally into the game. We could just never get it going.”

Boston’s Al Horford echoed similar sentiments.

“Credit to our group. We go out, we fight every night,” Horford said. “And tonight, we pushed but they answered back. We never caught a break. There were times there, we could have had a three (3-pointer) and we missed it. And then they come down and hit a three. It was kind of like … one of those nights, everything was working their way. Gotta give them credit. They came out the aggressor. They held it and we didn’t have it tonight.”

Of course, the easy way to explain away what happened was to point out the impact of not having Kyrie Irving (quads injury).

While there’s no question not having the team’s top scorer has a negative impact on the team’s overall play, the Celtics are a team that’s rooted in strong defensive play which should have been on display against Chicago.

Instead of Boston’s defense taking the lead, they were a non-factor most of the night, especially when it came to Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis who had 24 and 23 points, respectively.

“We didn’t challenge Mirotic or Portis at all,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “And they got to the rim whenever they wanted.”

Fortunately for the Celtics, they return home where they can try and get back on a winning track after losing two of their last three games.

“We have to respond against Denver (on Wednesday),” Brown said. “When we come back and play them, we should have more energy.”


Stars, studs and duds: 'Sometimes you get your butt kicked'

Stars, studs and duds: 'Sometimes you get your butt kicked'

Following Boston’s 108-85 thumping at the hands of the Chicago Bulls, Brad Stevens had a very succinct message for his team after the loss.

“Sometimes you get your butt kicked!” he told them.

While that’s true, it’s rare for an elite team, or least one with an elite-team record, to get beaten so soundly by another squad that while playing better of late, is still the worst team in the league.

“Chicago dictated the whole game; they played harder than we did,” Stevens said. “They played with more presence than we did; played more competitive than we did. They played with more authority than we did. You’re not going to win many games when you play like that.”


Losing is something that all teams, good and bad, have to deal with and experience. But the way Chicago dominated play for most of the night, was something new for this Celtics team that has consistently come back from huge deficits to win.

But Stevens has cautioned repeatedly how his team was playing with fire making that part of their narrative this season, knowing there would be times when they just wouldn’t be able to muster up the necessary plays at either end of the floor and rally for a victory.

Monday was that night.

“We’ve had a chance to win every game except for this one,” Stevens said. “This one was obvious, even when we were making our run in the third it was kind of back and forth. And they hit every big shot they needed to kind of stem the tide when it was an 11-point game or put it back to 14. We just had too many easy errors from our standpoint. And then, they made plays.”

And in doing so, they absolutely out-played the Celtics in every way imaginable.

“I don’t want to chalk it up to, ‘hey you’re gonna have nights like this,’” Stevens said. “We just got our butt kicked; we’ll take that and move forward.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 108-85 beatdown at the hands of the Chicago Bulls who despite winning three straight, have now moved up to a tie for the worst record (6-20) in the NBA, with Atlanta.



Nikola Mirotic

The Boston Celtics had no answer for Mirotic who lit the Celtics up for 24 points. “We didn’t do a great job guarding him and he made us pay for that,” Stevens said. “He’s a really good offensive player.”

Bobby Portis

Coming off the bench, Portis gave the Celtics fits from the perimeter as well as around the rim before finishing with a season-high 23 points. “Portis got going from (3-point range),” Stevens said. “We played with no presence.”



Kyrie Irving

He didn’t log a single minute on Monday, but his presence was definitely felt. Boston looked completely lost and discombobulated with their four-time all-star out of the lineup with a quads injury.



Every Celtic on the active roster

There’s just not enough space to go through all the players that failed the Celtics miserably on Monday. The starters. The bench. The two-way players called up. This was not just the worst game of the season for the Celtics, but one of the worst ever in Stevens’ four-plus seasons as the Celtics head coach. “It was a collective success for them, and a collective failure for us,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.