BOSTON -- Jayson Tatum is a victim of his own success.
One of the top rookies last season, Tatum emerged as a clutch scorer for the Celtics in the playoffs, whether it was knocking down a 3-pointer or going to the rim and dunking on his childhood idol, LeBron James.
But these first weeks of the season have reminded us that as good as Tatum has been, he too will experience his share of ups and downs on the floor.
That’s why he wasn’t the least bit phased by delivering a season-high 27 points in Boston’s loss at Portland on Sunday.
“I never get too excited when I play well,” Tatum said. “I feel like that’s what I’m supposed to do. I know I’m gonna make shots eventually. It’s a long season. Some days it just don’t go in.”
Tatum is hoping those days are behind him now that he’s put together a couple of high-scoring, highly efficient scoring games.
Although Tatum is only shooting 41.3 percent from the field this season, he has connected on at least 50 percent of his shot attempts in the last two games while averaging 24.0 points per game in that stretch.
It makes sense for him to start breaking out and making shots considering the Celtics rank among the league’s leaders in open shot attempts.
“We’re gonna hit open shots eventually,” Tatum said. “It’s still pretty early. We’re not trying to make excuses. Guys in here will figure it out.”
And while there’s understandably a considerable amount of attention given to what Tatum does as a scorer, he’s actually playing better in just about every phase of the game outside of his shooting percentage.
His scoring, rebounds, assists as well as offensive and defensive ratings, are all better than what he did statistically as a rookie last season.
But Tatum understands that while the Celtics need him to be an all-around player, he also knows that a big part of what he contributes is directly tied into his ability to make shots at an efficient level.
That’s’ exactly what he did as a rookie, connecting on 47.5 percent of his field-goal attempts -- including 41.3 percent of his 3-pointers -- while averaging 13.9 points per game.
Tatum acknowledged that he was in a bit of a shooting funk before breaking out in the last two games, a trend he hopes to continue when Boston returns to the floor to host the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday.
He explained part of what has gone into him re-discovering his shooting stroke recently.
“Just concentrating, going a little bit harder in pre-game routines, getting game-like shots,” Tatum said.
Coach Brad Stevens believes Tatum’s turnaround shooting the ball began in the loss to the Jazz.
“He did a much better job of really picking spots and getting the right looks,” Stevens said Friday's defeat in Utah. “He’s a young guy. I thought he handled the last 48 hours great. I was pleased with how he played.”
Stevens had started the second half of Boston’s comeback win at Phoenix the previous night with Marcus Smart in the lineup in place of Tatum.
Following the game, Stevens said the decision was not an indictment of any particular player but instead a need to jump-start the team, which was by and large was lethargic up to that point.
But as we’ve seen with Tatum, good play, bad play, it doesn’t matter.
He is all about that “on to the next one” mantra, where the goal is to simply keep getting better regardless of how ridiculously high the expectations from others may be for him.
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