Boston – Jason Tatum has historically played his best basketball of the season in the second half of the NBA calendar. The trend reached new heights in March, as the All-Star striker equaled Larry Bird’s record for most 50-point games in the Celtics’ jersey with a 54-point blast in Sunday’s 126-120 win over the Nets.
This was Tatum’s fourth 50-point game despite being only his fifth season in the NBA, matching Bird’s record of more than 30 years. Tatum scored 34 of 54 points after a break against Brooklyn, and edged out Kevin Durant (37 points) in a thrilling second half that included a 10/17 shot from the field, a 4 of 7 from a 3-point range and 10/11 foot in. 22 min.
Marcus Smart had some tough words for his teammate’s offensive decisions earlier this season after starting the year 2-5 for Boston. However, the base has shown interest in Tatum’s recent adjustments that have propelled Boston to a record 21-6 in their last 27 games.
“He’s been doing this his whole life, man,” Smart said of Tatum after the dynamic performance. “Since he’s here. He’s reading the game the right way. He’s letting the game come to him, he picks his spots and he does what he’s doing. So for us and Jason his growth is very, very important, and he’s shown not only himself, but also to us and everyone in the world that he knows What he wants to work on, and he’s doing it. He’s playing the game smarter, and it shows.”
When Smart was asked to clarify when Tatum would make the adjustment, he referred back to November after his initial observations.
“A few weeks into the season,” Smart said of the transformation. “Stop trying to force it and make the right reading, making the game easy on himself. Saving that energy and not trying to beat every double team that comes his way and that allows him to do what he does at the end of matches. He has the legs late in the fourth quarter to take over the matches and that It’s all. When you’re a great player, that’s what it’s about, having those legs at a critical time to be able to do that.”
Tatum’s improvement on that front coincided with some of his best game in the final quarter of the season to SMART’s point. In Boston’s 3-0 start through March, the All-Star striker averaged 14.7 points in Game Four while shooting 64 percent from the field.
“It’s impressive,” Odoka declared belatedly for Tatum. “I kind of forgot how young they are all out there. These guys are 23, 24, 25, seeing them step up to the plate. But the confidence they have in themselves, the team, we all have in them, and it’s just Alpha’s approach to be the best on the court. Every night, that’s what’s needed against some of these high-level opponents. So, he takes pride in the matches against high-level players and we don’t make it an individual thing, but he wants to play well and be proud of it. So, certainly impressive, but it’s not unexpected.”
This version of Tatum looks like the Celtics look like one of the best two-way teams in the NBA amid the 21-6 stretch that drew them into a game one of the three seeded in the packed Eastern Conference standings. Boston’s offense looks at its best all year long, and Smart thinks that’s a tribute to the two young team stars he addressed with harsh words earlier this year.
“Involve everyone and choose your venues wisely. He’s doing a great job in this regard, he and Jaylen said. “Both and that’s why we do what we do. These are good players who get us to the offensive end, and make sure we get great shots either for themselves or for their teammates.”