BOSTON – It was Jayson Tatum’s first playoff game on Sunday, a time when even the most level-headed rookies might be feeling some anxiety/anxiousness/nerves.
But as we’ve seen all season, Tatum is not your run-of-the-mill first-year player.
So it shouldn't come as a surprise that in the most important game of his still-young NBA career, Tatum’s demeanor in Game No. 83 wasn’t any different than No. 23.
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And his play in Game 1 of Boston’s first-round series with the Milwaukee Bucks, would prove to be one of the keys as the Celtics squeaked out a 113-107 overtime win.
Tatum had quite the playoff debut for Boston, tallying a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds to go with four assists.
He became just the third rookie in franchise history to tally a double-double in his first playoff game, joining NBC Sports Boston basketball analyst Tommy Heinsohn and fellow Hall of Famer Bill Russell.
“It was a lot of fun,” Tatum said of his first postseason game. “I’ve always dreamed of this moment, playing in my first playoff game. It helped we were at home and we had our home crowd behind us and we got the first win.”
Tatum gave the fans a lot to cheer about as he opened the game by making his first four field goal attempts.
But as the game wore on, his Midas touch began to fade as the Bucks became more physical which in hindsight was among the many takeaways from his first playoff game.
Tatum wasn’t surprised.
"Nobody wants to lose, especially Game 1,” he said. “So everybody was giving it their all.”
And while Al Horford’s all-around game (24 points, 12 rebounds) stood out, as did Terry Rozier’s clutch shooting in the fourth quarter and his scoring in overtime and for the game overall (23 points), Tatum had his shining moments as well.
With neither team showing signs of taking control in overtime, Boston took a 106-105 lead with 2:10 to play.
They would get the ball back with a chance to take their biggest lead of the extra session, and it was Tatum delivering with a driving lay-up that gave Boston a 108-105 lead with 1:22 to play that turned out to be the game-winning basket.
Delivering big shots in big moments was nothing new to Tatum or the Celtics, which is why neither felt him being in his first playoff game would factor in his play.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens repeatedly told media leading up to Sunday’s game, that he anticipated Tatum would play well.
“Well I can say we expect it, because he’s shown it all year,” Stevens said.
Tatum did a lot of things well, but he made some mistakes too that at the time, were huge gaffes on his part.
None appeared to be bigger than the errant pass he made with 41.2 seconds to play in overtime that gave the Bucks the ball trailing 108-106 at the time.
Milwaukee had multiple chances to tie the game or take the lead, but among the key plays by Tatum was blocking the shot of Malcolm Brogdon with 27.4 seconds to play.
Moments later, Terry Rozier was fouled and made a pair of free throws with 18.8 seconds to play.
Boston had a two-possession lead, but Tatum knew the game while in hand, was definitely not over.
And that realization more than anything else, is what Tatum will take with him from Game 1 and apply towards Game 2 on Tuesday.
“It’s a long game and we understand that and both teams are playing extremely hard so it’s going to go down to the wire,” Tatum said. “That is what I really learned today; you can’t take really take plays off because ever possession matters.”