Celtics

One stat Celtics Jayson Tatum is sure to improve upon tonight vs. Bucks

One stat Celtics Jayson Tatum is sure to improve upon tonight vs. Bucks

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Bucks, which tips off Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Tommy have the call of the game at 7:30 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

*****

BOSTON — As Jayson Tatum made the media rounds prior to the start of this season, it was pretty clear that he had every intention of asserting himself more than ever as a scorer. 

Three games into the season and Tatum has indeed been a man of his word. The third-year forward is off to a career-best season, registering big numbers in several areas with one standing out above all others — 20.3.

Not only is that Tatum’s scoring average, but it’s also the number of shot attempts he’s taking per game. 

While his shooting percentage from the field (34.4 percent) isn’t where he or the Celtics would want it to be, it’s encouraging that he’s showing little to no hesitation when it comes to attacking defenses either with his dribble pull-up game, or dribble-drive into the lane looking to finish at the rim. 

And remember this.

Tatum has shot less than 37 percent from the field in each of Boston’s first three games, but has never in his pro career ever dipped below that shooting mark in four straight games.

Tatum’s willingness to get to the rim will be one of the keys for the Celtics in tonight’s matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks. 

Here are five other factors to watch for in tonight’s game.

WINNING EARLY

A win tonight would improve Boston’s record to 3-1, making it just the second time in the last nine seasons that the Celtics opened the season with wins in three of their first four games. The only other time that has happened in the last nine seasons was in 2016-2017.

That season, the Celtics wound up losing four of their next games following the 3-1 start and ended the season by losing in five games in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

ANTETOKOUNMPO’S HISTORIC START

By no means is Giannis Antetokounmpo a lock to be the league’s MVP for the second year in a row. But he’s certainly not going to make it easy for those coming for the crown. 

The 6-foot-11 do-it-all Antetokounmpo has scored 73 points, grabbed 40 rebounds and dished out 27 assists in Milwaukee’s first three games. The only other player in NBA history to register those numbers or better in their first three games of the season was Oscar Robertson (97 points, 31 rebounds, 37 assists) who did so in 1961. 

TATUM IN EXCLUSIVE COMPANY

There’s a lot of attention paid to what Jayson Tatum is doing as a scorer this season. But three games in, it’s clear that he wants to be more than just a player who gets buckets. 

And he has indeed shown the ability to rack up stats in a multitude of categories.

This season, he’s averaging 20.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.7 steals per game. The only other player in the NBA this season thus far who is putting up similar numbers or better is Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns. This season, he’s averaging 32.0 points, 13.3 rebounds and 2.7 steals per game.

SMART WATCH

It’s hard to believe that if Marcus Smart doesn’t make another 3-pointer all season, he will be ranked among the all-time leaders in Celtics history when it comes to made 3-pointers.

He’s currently ranked seventh with 452 made 3-pointers. Up next is Isaiah Thomas, who made 460 three-pointers when he played for Boston. 

STAT TO TRACK

Tonight’s game will feature two of the best when it comes to fast break points. The Bucks are really good at making teams pay by getting out in transition, which has fueled their league-best 22 points per game scoring average in fast-break points.

Meanwhile, Boston’s transition defense has been among the unexpected surprises in this still-young NBA season. The Celtics come into tonight’s game allowing just nine fast-break points per game, which is the fifth-lowest average in the NBA this season. 

BLAKELY: How Walker resuscitated Carter-Williams' NBA career>>>>>

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

NBA Rumors: Execs expect Gordon Hayward to opt in to $34 million Celtics contract

NBA Rumors: Execs expect Gordon Hayward to opt in to $34 million Celtics contract

Gordon Hayward was enjoying his best season as a Boston Celtic before the 2019-20 season came to a screeching halt due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Through 45 games, the 30-year-old forward was averaging 17.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists while shooting 59.3 percent from the field. Hayward's performance was setting himself up for a solid contract if he were to opt out of his contract and hit free agency this summer.

That scenario doesn't appear likely, however.

According to Heavy.com, NBA executives expect Hayward to exercise his $34 million player option.

'It’s too much money to pass up,' one general manager told Heavy.com. 'He could get a longer deal if that is what he really wants. But I don’t think the Celtics want to give it to him, they have a lot of young guys to pay and the starting (salary) number on whatever the contract is will not be close to $34 million. He can opt in this year and then take a big contract next year. When you look at what he has done since his injury, he has only gotten better. He could get better next year and be ready for the summer of 2021.'

That doesn't exactly come as a surprise. Hayward may get a nice contract if he were to hit the open market this year, but it certainly wouldn't be anywhere near that eye-popping $34 million figure.

It makes far more sense for Hayward to take his money and test the market in 2021 if he and the Celtics don't agree on an extension before then. The 2021 free agent class will be much deeper, and teams will have more cap space to give Hayward a sizable long-term deal. That is, if he can duplicate the kind of success he's enjoyed so far this season.

Celtics Talk Podcast: Paul Pierce and Brian Scalabrine break down 2008 Finals Game 6 vs. L.A

Celtics Talk Podcast: Paul Pierce and Brian Scalabrine break down 2008 Finals Game 6 vs. L.A

With the 2019-20 NBA season suspended, what better time to relive the Boston Celtics' 2008 Finals run vs. the Los Angeles Lakers?

As part of NBC Sports Boston's "Classic Celtics" series, Paul Pierce and Brian Scalabrine took a trip down memory lane and watched their Game 6 series-clincher while providing some commentary.

In the latest Celtics Talk Podcast, you can listen to Pierce and Scal go quarter by quarter to get Pierce’s recollection of what it was like to win a championship in front of the Boston crowd.

Click here to listen and subscribe to the Celtics Talk Podcast:

Boston was 35-6 at home in the 2008 regular season and lost only one game at home in their playoff run. Pierce credits that success, and their dominant Game 6 performance, to the raucous fans at TD Garden.

We're at home, we've been a dominant home team ... you could just feel it. I don't know, it's just something about the Garden, man. You could just feel it. It was like, when the momentum was going, you know the type of runs we were capable of...

Just pulling up to the arena when you see everybody just all in the streets coming from the bars. And it was just like, when we were in the locker room before the game and you hear the chants of 'Beat L.A.," it's hard to hear in the locker room. Our crowd was that energetic and I just remember hearing that from the locker room. There's just something about the energy in that building, man. That's why we were so dominant at home throughout the playoffs.

After re-watching their dominant 131-92 win, Pierce reflected on what it felt like to finally walk off the court an NBA champion.

It was the best feeling in the world because you think about all the years from the time I started playing basketball, this is what it was all about. Making it to the NBA and winning a championship and doing it with the Boston Celtics ... 

I'm just ecstatic. I'm like man, these are my brothers for life. Everybody knows what we go through every day in practice. Everyday is not always smooth. We have arguments. But it's all for this moment and you can't -- those moments will never go away, man. They'll live with you forever.

NBC Sports Boston's Classic Celtics series will continue with a bunch of memorable games on the docket, including the C's 1986 showdown vs. Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the 1896 playoffs. That one is set to air Sunday night at 7 p.m.

To hear more from Pierce and Scal about their 2008 championship run, check out this week's episode of the Celtics Talk Podcast, available on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network and YouTube.