Celtics

Jayson Tatum explains how he's dealing with early shooting slump

Celtics

The numbers don't lie: Jayson Tatum is mired in a shooting slump.

The Boston Celtics forward is still averaging 23.5 points per game and dropped 23 in Monday's win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. But he also leads the NBA in field goal attempts, and his shooting percentages are down across the board through 14 games: 38.6% from the floor (compared to 45.9% last season), 31.6% from 3-point range (38.6% last season) and 76.8% from the free throw line (86.8% last season).

Those are eye-opening numbers from one of the best young forwards in the league. Tatum was asked directly about his early struggles Monday night after hitting 7 of 20 shots and just 2 of 8 3-pointers in Cleveland.

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"I don’t know. You just miss shots sometimes," Tatum said. "I ain’t missed this many shots in my career, but I guess it’s just part of it, honestly.

"Can’t get too down, can’t get too excited. I try to be the same person when I’m 7 for 30 as when I'm scoring 50 or 60. I can’t change who I am or how I act. I don’t want anybody to feel bad for me now that I’m missing shots."

Tatum has endured mini shooting slumps before, but few have lasted this long. The 23-year-old hopes a positive mentality will ensure this slump doesn't linger.

"I’m continuing to keep working," Tatum said. "It’s going to come. I haven’t doubted myself, not once. Neither have my teammates, neither have my opponents. They’re still guarding me closely. They don’t leave me, they don't help because they know what I’m capable of.

 

"I've just got to keep working at it. Keep watching film, keep shooting. I’ll figure it out. In the meantime, keep finding ways to help win games."

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That was the case Monday night: Tatum added eight rebounds, five assists and a pair of blocks while taking a backseat to Dennis Schroder in crunch time to help the Celtics earn the win.

Make no mistake, though: Boston needs Tatum to be an elite scorer if it wants to contend in the Eastern Conference this season. The C's are 2-4 when Tatum scores 21 points or fewer, and with Jaylen Brown sidelined due to a hamstring injury, Boston doesn't have many consistent scoring options outside its two-time All-Star.

Tatum's next opportunity to snap out of his funk will come Wednesday night against the Atlanta Hawks.