Celtics

Jayson Tatum is not your average playoff rookie

Jayson Tatum is not your average playoff rookie

BOSTON – It was Jayson Tatum’s first playoff game on Sunday, a time when even the most level-headed rookies might be feeling some anxiety/anxiousness/nerves.

But as we’ve seen all season, Tatum is not your run-of-the-mill first-year player.

So it shouldn't come as a surprise that in the most important game of his still-young NBA career, Tatum’s demeanor in Game No. 83 wasn’t any different than No. 23.

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And his play in Game 1 of Boston’s first-round series with the Milwaukee Bucks, would prove to be one of the keys as the Celtics squeaked out a 113-107 overtime win.

Tatum had quite the playoff debut for Boston, tallying a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds to go with four assists.

He became just the third rookie in franchise history to tally a double-double in his first playoff game, joining NBC Sports Boston basketball analyst Tommy Heinsohn and fellow Hall of Famer Bill Russell.

“It was a lot of fun,” Tatum said of his first postseason game. “I’ve always dreamed of this moment, playing in my first playoff game. It helped we were at home and we had our home crowd behind us and we got the first win.”

Tatum gave the fans a lot to cheer about as he opened the game by making his first four field goal attempts.

But as the game wore on, his Midas touch began to fade as the Bucks became more physical which in hindsight was among the many takeaways from his first playoff game.

Tatum wasn’t surprised.

"Nobody wants to lose, especially Game 1,” he said. “So everybody was giving it their all.”

And while Al Horford’s all-around game (24 points, 12 rebounds) stood out, as did Terry Rozier’s clutch shooting in the fourth quarter and his scoring in overtime and for the game overall (23 points), Tatum had his shining moments as well.

With neither team showing signs of taking control in overtime, Boston took a 106-105 lead with 2:10 to play.

They would get the ball back with a chance to take their biggest lead of the extra session, and it was Tatum delivering with a driving lay-up that gave Boston a 108-105 lead with 1:22 to play that turned out to be the game-winning basket.

Delivering big shots in big moments was nothing new to Tatum or the Celtics, which is why neither felt him being in his first playoff game would factor in his play.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens repeatedly told media leading up to Sunday’s game, that he anticipated Tatum would play well.

“Well I can say we expect it, because he’s shown it all year,” Stevens said.

Tatum did a lot of things well, but he made some mistakes too that at the time, were huge gaffes on his part.

None appeared to be bigger than the errant pass he made with 41.2 seconds to play in overtime that gave the Bucks the ball trailing 108-106 at the time.

Milwaukee had multiple chances to tie the game or take the lead, but among the key plays by Tatum was blocking the shot of Malcolm Brogdon with 27.4 seconds to play.

Moments later, Terry Rozier was fouled and made a pair of free throws with 18.8 seconds to play.

Boston had a two-possession lead, but Tatum knew the game while in hand, was definitely not over.

And that realization more than anything else, is what Tatum will take with him from Game 1 and apply towards Game 2 on Tuesday.

“It’s a long game and we understand that and both teams are playing extremely hard so it’s going to go down to the wire,” Tatum said. “That is what I really learned today; you can’t take really take plays off because ever possession matters.”

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Enes Kanter Show: Celtics center praises Brad Stevens for explanation of less playing time

Enes Kanter Show: Celtics center praises Brad Stevens for explanation of less playing time

The Boston Celtics committed to Brad Stevens with a contract extension earlier this week, and it isn't difficult to see why.

The C's head coach has received rave reviews from players and staff who have had the opportunity to work alongside him in Boston over the last seven years. Not only has Stevens done a phenomenal job leading the team on the court, but possibly even more importantly, he's been able to connect with his players off of it.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-76ers, which begins Monday at 5:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 6:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

In a brand new episode of the Enes Kanter Show, the Celtics center explains to Chris Forsberg what makes Stevens such a great head coach.

Enes Kanter Show: Celtics’ dodgeball games and getting ready to joust with Joel Embiid and the Sixers | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

"What makes him so special is what he does off the court," Kanter said about Stevens. "He's the type of coach that tells you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. Always keeps it 100 percent real with you. More than a coach, he's just a friend, man. You can literally go to talk to him about anything."

Kanter, who has seen his minutes reduced lately in the Orlando bubble, praised Stevens for how he communicated with him about his decrease in playing time.

"There were some games where I was not playing a lot," said Kanter. "I went to his room and we talked, and he was like, 'Hey, listen, it's your ninth year now and there's so many young guys that are looking up to you. Your best strength is not the offensive rebound. Your best strength is not the post-ups, not the finishes and everything. Your best strength is just being a good teammate. Just trying to give positive energy. And that's what we need from you in the games where you don't play.'

"I mean, look, not every coach is comfortable talking to their players. The Celtics organization definitely feels very special to have him on our side ... It's a blessing to have a person like him on our team."

Also discussed on the show: The story behind the Celtics' dodgeball game in the bubble, Kanter's frustration at Jayson Tatum "being good at everything," and how the Celtics can slow down Joel Embiid.

You can listen and subscribe to The Enes Kanter Show here, or watch on YouTube.

Celtics-76ers preview: What will Philly miss most from Ben Simmons?

Celtics-76ers preview: What will Philly miss most from Ben Simmons?

As we saw throughout most of Philadelphia’s seeding games, the 76ers losing Ben Simmons (left knee surgery) for the season was a huge blow. 

It’s one of the main reasons why the Boston Celtics are overwhelming favorites over their Eastern Conference rival in the teams' first-round playoff series, which begins on Monday.

So where will Simmons' absence be felt the most?

Defense

For all the impressive things Simmons does with the basketball, the Sixers will miss him most on the defensive side.

The 6-foot-10 Simmons boasts length, size and lateral quickness that causes problems for opponents offensively because of his pick-and-roll defensive potential that’s on display most nights.

Against the Celtics, Simmons spends most of his time on the floor guarding Boston’s top scorer, Jayson Tatum. 

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-76ers, which begins Monday at 5:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 6:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

In the four games the two teams played this season, three of which were won by Philly, Simmons limited Tatum’s impact each time. 

According to NBA.com/stats, Tatum shot 31.3 percent (5-for-16) in games in which he was guarded by Simmons this season. 

So, if Tatum puts up big-time numbers in this series, no one should be surprised considering the Sixers player who has consistently done the best job at defending him won’t be on the floor.

Offensive mismatches

A point guard trapped in a big man's body, Simmons has speed and strength that creates matchup problems on the perimeter as well as on the post.

The 24-year-old averaged 16.4 points along with 7.8 rebounds and 8.0 assists this season while shooting a team-best 58 percent from the field.

Celtics Talk Podcast: The Al Horford conundrum and why Sixers won’t last long vs. Celtics | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Simmons’ shooting range has been a topic of discussion for as long as he has been in the NBA. And while it creates a different kind of challenge for the Sixers when it comes to running their offense, the third-year pro has shown himself to be talented enough to still be a high-impact, difference-maker for Philly.

Playmaking

Soon after the Sixers arrived in the bubble, head coach Brett Brown talked about how the team was planning to play Simmons more at power forward to better utilize his versatility and create better spacing for the team’s perimeter shooters.

Like most of what the Sixers have tried to do this season, the few times we saw Simmons in that role it didn’t work. But his absence creates an even bigger hole when it comes to playmaking.

Shake Milton has moved into the starting lineup after putting together a string of impressive performances prior to the league being suspended in March.

However, his impact was greatest as a scorer, which is different from what he is being charged with now. Milton is averaging 12.5 points as a starter this season to go with 2.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists. 

No one is expecting him to put up Simmons-like numbers, but the more you watch Milton play and try to run Philly's offense, the clearer it becomes just how much Simmons’ presence is missed.