Celtics

Tatum playing at a superstar level after leading Celtics to win vs. Heat

Celtics

The Boston Celtics took a punch from the Miami Heat and bounced back with a strong finish to Wednesday night's matchup to extend their win streak to three games.

Once again the Celtics were led by their two young stars as Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined to score 48 points and grab 17 rebounds in a 107-105 victory in Miami.

Boston finished its four-game road trip with three wins, and it will return to TD Garden with a matchup versus the Washington Wizards on Friday night.

Let's look at three overreactions from the Celtics' win over the Heat and assess their merit.

1. Jayson Tatum is playing at a superstar level

Verdict: Not an overreaction

Tatum has taken his game to a higher level over the last week, one that looks very similar to the performance he gave in February of last season when he was named player of the month.

The 22-year-old forward poured in a game-high 27 points on 10-of-21 shooting, along with five rebounds and four assists.

He's averaging 30.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists on 49.2 percent shooting (44.4 percent from 3-point range) in his last four games. Boston has won the last three of those matchups, including Monday night against the Toronto Raptors when Tatum scored 40 points. 

Tatum earned his first All-Star selection last season and was ranked as a top 15 player on most preseason lists entering the 2020-21 campaign. Not only is Tatum putting up better stats compared to last season, his consistency also has improved. Tatum and Jaylen Brown are carrying the team offensively, which is exactly what the C's need with All-Star guard Kemba Walker unable to play because of injury.

 

2. The little things in Payton Pritchard's game are most impressive

Verdict: Not an overreaction

Payton Pritchard didn't light up the stat sheet Wednesday night. He scored six points on 3-of-10 shooting in 20 minutes of playing time. However, the C's rookie did show that he's fully capable of impacting the game in a positive way by doing all the little things required to help the team.

The 22-year-old point guard pulled down six rebounds and dished out four assists. Two of his baskets came on offensive rebounds, including a game-winning put-back shot with 0.2 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter that sealed the team's 107-105 victory. Instead of just standing at the 3-point line where he began the play, Pritchard crashed the offensive boards on Marcus Smart's drive to put himself in position for the winning put-back.

Pritchard did something very similar at the end of the first quarter with a put-back shot in the final seconds. He out-hustled the Heat down the floor and scored two points that the Celtics needed in what turned out to be a close game.

These types of high IQ and hustle plays are one reason why the Celtics are able to trust a rookie like Pritchard so early in his career. 

3. The two-big lineup should be used far less

Verdict: Slight overreaction

The Celtics have often started a two-big lineup with Tristan Thompson and Daniel Theis, and it's enjoyed mixed results to begin the season.

It's not a bad lineup against a team with a lot of size, but even though Miami started two bigs of its own in Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo, that doesn't mean the Celtics should've countered with the same. Instead, the C's should be putting more athleticism and shooting on the floor whenever possible. 

One of the primary issues with the two-center lineup of Thompson and Theis is that it clogs the paint and prevents Tatum and Brown from having clear lanes to the basket. Thompson isn't going to stretch the floor, and even though Theis has no problem shooting 3-pointers, he doesn't hit them at a good enough rate. He was 1-of-4 from beyond the arc versus the Heat.

The two-big lineup looked great to start the game, but that's because the Celtics -- Brown and Tatum, in particular -- were shooting lights out from beyond the arc. Any lineup looks good when the 3s are falling at an unsustainably high rate, but too often this two-big lineup lacks ball movement and quality shot selection in the halfcourt.

This lineup was worth the experiment, but it should not be the starting rotation going forward.