LOS ANGELES -- As good as Jayson Tatum has been for the Boston Celtics this year, he’s still a rookie with a lot to learn.
Part of his education involves understanding what he has to do in order to become an impact player more consistently.
And his teacher?
Why that would be fellow Dukie Kyrie Irving.
Tatum, who had just four points on 1-for-6 shooting in Tuesday’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, had a strong bounce-back performance on Wednesday with 18 points which included 10 in the third which is when the Celtics began to put some separation between themselves and the Clippers.
Boston has been at its best this season when Tatum has looked for his shot consistently, a sermon that Irving finds himself preaching to the 19-year-old often.
“That’s what we need from him,” Irving said. “We just need him to be like that, have that aggressive mindset. I’m here to remind him of that throughout the game, throughout the season.”
Irving added: “As a developing young player, the best thing he can do is continue to learn how to be consistent. That’s a trait you have to develop over time. I think he’s doing a great job of learning on the fly.”
Here are five takeaways from Boston’s 113-102 win over the Los Angeles Clippers which snapped the Celtics’ four-game losing streak.
With injuries forcing the Celtics to reshuffle their playing deck, they really needed Rozier to step up and lead the second unit. He was more than up for the challenge, scoring 15 points off the bench to lead Boston’s reserves. But more telling was how good things were for Boston when he was in the game, at both ends of the floor. His offensive rating of 111.9 was second on the team among players who saw at least 10 minutes of court time. And defensively, Rozier had a team-best defensive rating of 79.3.
It looked like Ojeleye was going to foul out in the first quarter, picking up four fouls in just three minutes, 42 seconds. Celtics head coach Brad Stevens kept him on the floor, gambling that his rookie would figure out how to stay on the floor. Ojeleye did just that, hitting a pair of big 3’s in the second half to help Boston get the win. And his play, particularly his defense, was among the key factors for the Celtics. For the game, Ojeleye had a defensive rating of 83.4 which was second on the team to fellow reserve Terry Rozier.
With no Al Horford, Theis found himself having to battle Clippers big men DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin for long stretches. To Theis’ credit, he battled around the glass all game before finishing with eight points and eight rebounds in about 23 minutes of court time. His defensive rebounding was particularly important because it helped limit the Clippers’ second-chance point opportunities. For the game, Theis had a .304 defensive rebounding percentage which was tops among all players.
That old basketball axiom, “it’s a make-miss league,’ was so on point Wednesday night. The Celtics gave the Clippers very few good looks offensively. The Clippers took 79 shots, 67 of which were contested which translates into 84.8 percent of Los Angeles’ shots involved a Celtics player giving them no freedom or airspace for open looks. But the Clippers’ defense was really good as well. They contested 77 of Boston’s 93 shots, or 82.8 percent.
FINDING THE MISMATCH
We’re used to seeing Kyrie Irving take advantage of weaker defenders, but there was a conscious effort by Boston to do the same with other Celtics players. Jayson Tatum, Marcus Morris and Terry Rozier all benefited from isolation-situations that favored them offensively. And to their credit, often that edge was translated into easy points.