Celtics

Tatum takes over in Celtics' biggest game of the season

Tatum takes over in Celtics' biggest game of the season

BOSTON – When you look at what has been the driving force behind the Boston Celtics’ success this season, it begins and ends with youth. 

So in the most important game of the season, it was only fitting that the Celtics found themselves being led by 20-year-old Jayson Tatum, the youngest member of the Celtics roster.

Tatum delivered a do-it-all kind of performance for Boston which now finds itself one win away from a trip to the NBA Finals after defeating Cleveland 96-83 in their Game 5 matchup on Wednesday. 

Recently named to the NBA’s All-Rookie First Team, Tatum had a team-high 24 points to go with seven rebounds, four assists, four steals and two blocked shots. 

According to stats guru Dick Lipe, Tatum became the first rookie in 55 postseasons to register that many rebounds, assists, steals and blocked shots in a playoff game. 

"Even though he was scoring the basketball, he didn't try to rush or he didn't press," said Cavs coach Tyronn Lue. "He just played within the game and took his shots when they were there. He played like a veteran tonight. He didn't try to force anything and just took what the defense gave him."

And on a night when the Celtics had stretches of ineffective play at both ends of the floor, they absolutely needed Tatum to deliver a special performance such as the one we saw in Game 5. 

“I just thought he had a really good game,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “Again, these guys were anxious to play. Everybody is anxious after you get beat. But I think Jayson was especially anxious after Game 4.”

Tatum has been Boston’s leading scorer in the postseason but has struggled for stretches in this series dealing with Cleveland’s more physical brand of basketball that has made scoring a lot tougher for him.

When asked about the physicality between the regular season versus the playoffs, Tatum replied, “It’s like night and day.

He added, “Guys are going to be physical, especially with me being the young guy. That tends to happen a lot. It’s just guys trying to be stronger and bigger than me, so they’re just trying to be more physical.”

But Tatum has shown he can handle the physical play and in turn, dish it out defensively where his length allowed him to contest most of the shots taken by whoever he was defending, in addition to giving him a shot at getting into passing lanes to create turnovers or at a minimum, disrupt Cleveland’s offense. 

One of Tatum’s most outspoken supporters on the Celtics roster has been Al Horford. 

“That was encouraging to see Jayson really just taking on the challenge, really playing well on offense, playing well on defense,” Horford said. “Just very poised for most of the night. I was just very happy to see him have such a good game.”

But it didn’t come as a surprise, not with the kind of season Tatum has had for the Celtics. 

However, if Tatum seemed a bit more aggressive offensively than usual, it might have had something to do with a chat he had with Stevens. 

“I knew I was going to play a little bit more in the first quarter, just to look to be more aggressive,” Tatum said. “Coach trusts that I’m going to make the right play …”

As he should.

Because the track record of success for Tatum in this his first NBA season is undeniable. 

The youth movement that has engulfed this franchise has been led by the play of a number of young players, with Tatum’s play and potential as a star in this league being one of the primary driving forces that has done the seemingly unthinkable – positioned the Celtics to be within one victory of a trip to the NBA Finals. 

“I can’t say it enough,” Tatum said. “We’re one win away from going to the Finals, especially after everything we’ve been through.”

There was Gordon Hayward’s season-ending injury just five minutes into the season, followed by a slew of other basketball-related adversity that included not having Kyrie Irving for the entire postseason. 

But those injuries created opportunities for young players like Tatum. 

And to his credit, no one has made the most of that opportunity for an enhanced role, better than Tatum. 

But the focus now for Tatum and the Celtics is to do the seemingly unheard of – send LeBron James home for the summer. 

“It’s tough to finish out games,” Tatum said. “You’ve got to give it your all until there are zero seconds left on the clock.”

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Anything is Podable Episode 6: The games behind-the-scenes

Anything is Podable Episode 6: The games behind-the-scenes

It’s hard not to be intense when Kevin Garnett is on your team. For the 07-08 Celtics, that fire extended beyond the court and into every waking moment they spent together.

Episode 6 of NBC Sports Boston’s “Anything is Podable” goes behind-the-scenes with the members of the world champion Celtics to get a never-before-heard glimpse into the games and competitions that brought them all closer together.

“Everything is about competition and we, as a staff, understood that early,” said Doc Rivers. “For practices, if there was no score, it was a bad practice. All you had to do was put a winner and a loser and the practice went from here to here. It was just that type of group.”

Whether it was on road trips, at practice, or in the weight room, everything about the team revolved around competition and an innate desire to win.

“Everything was competitive,” stated Rajon Rondo. “The boxing gloves came out in the weight room.”

As is the case with every great team, the bonding off the court was essential to finding success on it. Anything that could possibly be turned into a competition, was.

Arm wrestling? Check.

Push-upsYou bet.

On a road trip in Miami, Paul Pierce challenged Glen Davis to eat a large piece of bread in under one minute.

“Have you ever tried to eat a piece of bread like that?” Davis asked. “It gets dry. You can’t swallow it. It sounds easy, but people don’t know how dry bread is...I almost like choked and died.”

“You’re talking about a guy who loved to eat,” Pierce joked.

“I couldn’t do it,” Davis responded.

Competition off the court breeds competition on the court and, while the talent helped, little games like the ones played on road trips were vital to the Celtics achieving their ultimate goal.

Anything is Podable is a ten-part series diving into the story of the 2008 Celtics and their championship season, with exclusive, never-before-heard interviews with team executives, former players, and media members.

Narrated by Kyle Draper, it’s the perfect way for Celtics fans to pass time this offseason and get excited for 2018-19, a season in which the Celtics have as good a chance at raising their 18th championship banner as they’ve had since that magical 2008 season.

Fans can subscribe to the podcast through the link below and check out the other nine episodes for a look at this exclusive series.

Jayson Tatum on overhyped talk: 'I'll stick to my job'

Jayson Tatum on overhyped talk: 'I'll stick to my job'

A story earlier this week from Bleacher Report's Grant Hughes calling burgeoning young Celtics star Jayson Tatum one of the NBA's five most overrated players has expectedly ruffled some feathers in the Boston sports stratosphere. 

But Tatum himself is taking the high road. In a conversation with ESPN's Chris Forsberg centered around his recent workouts with future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant, the 20-year-old forward, who finished third in Rookie of the Year voting this past season, said he wasn't bothered by the article:

While Hughes acknowledged that Tatum could be a franchise player, his reasoning for inclusion on the list was that he could be a victim of the stacked team for which he plays, saying, "Kyrie has never been one to take a backseat, and with him back on the floor, it'll be much harder for Tatum to build on his postseason takeover."

As for the session with Kobe? Tatum clearly absorbed a lot:

Hughes also named Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins, Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard, Bulls foward Zach LaVine and Suns forward Josh Jackson in the company of overhyped players.

It's been quite a week for Tatum, the former No. 3 overall pick out of Duke University. Earlier in the week, the St. Louis native had his jersey number permanently retired at his high school alma mater.

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