The fact that Jayson Tatum is putting up huge numbers for the Boston Celtics isn’t all that surprising.
As the No. 3 pick in the draft, that’s what you’re supposed to do at some point. But this soon?
It seems not a playoff game passes by that doesn’t include the 22-year-old Tatum delivering a performance that has never been done or seen before by a Boston Celtic so young.
In Boston’s Game 1 win over Philadelphia, Tatum became the youngest Celtic ever to deliver a double-double of at least 30 points and 10 rebounds in a playoff game.
He followed that up with another monster game in Boston’s 128-101 Game 2 win in which he scored 33 points and by doing so, became the first Celtic so young to have back-to-back playoff games of at least 30 points scored.
“He’s a superstar,” said Boston’s Kemba Walker. “He’s been showing it night-in and night-out. He’s a special talent.”
That talent will be on display once again as the Celtics look to put a stranglehold on their best-of-seven series against Philadelphia with Game 3 Friday night.
In the two games, Tatum has averaged 32.5 points while shooting 53.7 percent from the field and 58.8 percent (10-for-17) from 3-point range while hauling down 9.0 rebounds to go with 3.0 assists and 1.5 blocks per game.
“I try to go out there and be the best player I can be,” Tatum said. “I have the utmost confidence in myself.”
That confidence in Tatum exists within his teammates as well as Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.
“He’s consistently gotten better at every part of the game,” Stevens said. “When you take that next step, it’s when you do all those things against different defenses over and over.”
Despite Tatum’s strong Game 1 performance, the Sixers went into Game 2 optimistic that they could slow him down significantly more than they did in Game 1. Sixers head coach Brett Brown decided to start Matisse Thybulle in Game 2 primarily because of the job he did defensively on Tatum who missed seven of the nine shots he took in Game 1 when guarded by Thybulle.
Celtics Talk Podcast: Did Horford's departure accelerate Tatum & Brown's growth? | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube
But in Game 2, Tatum did what the greats do: He made adjustments.
And the result was not only another strong performance by Tatum, but one in which he absolutely overwhelmed Thybulle, who was on the defensive end of 10 of Tatum’s 33 points. That was the most points scored by Tatum on any particular Sixers player with Tatum making three of his four shot attempts when defended by Thybulle.
The more Philly tried to mix things up when it came to defending Tatum, the more he dominated whatever that matchup might be.
“(In Game 2), he saw switching, he saw blitzing, he saw … all kinds of different defenses and he was able to read and make the appropriate play," said Stevens, who added, “that’s what makes the great ones so special. It’s not like they’re going to be allowed to do whatever you want every night. Other teams are trying to take away what you do. So, to be able to read all those different scenarios is something at a very young age he’s already experienced. He’ll just get better and better.”
Tatum added, “I just try to figure it out; try to figure out when I need to be more aggressive, when I need to make the right pass. The most important thing is, I want to be that guy, I want to make big plays … that’s the first step, wanting to be that person.”