BOSTON – Crunch time is not usually a rookie place but, well, Jayson Tatum has not been your typical rookie.
With the Celtics clinging to a possession advantage of less than a minute to play on Saturday against the visiting Phoenix Suns, Tatum, 19, turned the corner after Al Horford slowed down his defense with a screen on the right wing. When no one came to dissuade Tatum, the rookie exploded in the basket for a two-handed hit.
Although the Celtics have one of the best players in the NBA in Kyrie Irving, Tatum has distinguished himself with a final balance of barracks that is beyond his years. Saturday's triumph in the last game helped Boston beat the Suns 116-111 in TD Garden.
Tatum is averaging 4.4 points in the fourth quarter of this season, a mark that is second behind the Celtics, only Irving, who is fourth-best in the NBA with an average of 7 points in the final draw.
Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum is playing better than the dominant ball scorer we saw at Duke. Will it last, and what does its rapid evolution say about its long-term potential?
Marc Gasol is three times All Star and former Defensive Player of the Year. But to stop the bleeding in Memphis, the Grizzlies need something they have not seen in their 32-year-old center: leadership.
Reduce the clutch time – the score by 5 points in the last five minutes, and Tatum's feats are even more remarkable. After Saturday's win, he was tied for the ninth position in the NBA in clutch points (33) while shooting 63.2 percent, the highest rate among the top 20 in clutch points.
If the ball is not in Irving's hands late in the games, the next best option could be a teenager.
"[Tatum is] matures beyond its years," Irving said. "Especially in that basketball court, he has the ability to open spaces and make timely shots, as well as making pitches to the basket that are somewhat strange for a young player."
Second-year forward Jaylen Brown was added: "Especially for a rookie to come, it's been special, I feel like he and Kyrie, they start in the fourth quarter, we need those plays at the end. and they have the ability to score as the highest percentile in the league so, when they get going, it's hard to stop them. "
Tatum's blow in the final game when being chased by rookie teammate Josh Jackson will make the moment much sweeter for the Celtics. amateurs Jackson provoked the wrath of Boston's central office when he canceled a previous training after the Celtics, including basketball operations president Danny Ainge, badistant general manager Mike Zarren and coach Brad Stevens, flew cross-country to Sacramento to take a look at the lottery potential.
Jackson called it a "lack of communication" and said he was not aware that the Celtics were coming to see him. Jackson added: "I will not train if I'm not ready."
Jackson was enraged at the suggestion that the Boston roster might have left him wary of being selected by the Celtics.
"I'm not threatened by anyone, ever," he said. "I welcome the competition."
The Celtics, who changed the No. 1 pick to Philadelphia, chose Duke & # 39; s Tatum at n. ° 3 and they could get another great lottery selection for their problems. Tatum responded by being the only Celtics player to start all 24 games this season. He is averaging 13.7 points in 30.5 minutes per game while shooting 49.3 percent in general and 48.6 percent beyond the 3-point arc. It is also 75th overall in the real plus-negative of ESPN, a high ranking for a novice who sees so much time. The Celtics have the best record in the NBA with a total of 20-4.
Jackson averages 9.3 points in just 21.5 minutes per game. His defense has been excellent at times, but he is shooting 39 percent from the field. The Suns are 8-16 and only three teams (Mavericks, Hawks and Bulls) have more losses this season.
Tatum finished on Saturday with 15 points in 6 of 8 shots. The soft-spoken rookie shrugged at the growing murmur about his production in the last game.
"I just feel the game, I only have opportunities," said Tatum. "We found some mismatches in the fourth quarter, and I was just trying to take advantage of it."
Pressed on his fourth-quarter score, Tatum added, "I mean, I guess it just happens that way, I really do not." think about it. I try to find my chance and then attack. "
Horford, the oldest statesman on the Boston roster, is impressed by what he has seen of a player who is almost 12 years younger.
" It's very " He's not doing a better business than he is, "said Horford. "He's just going around and playing basketball, he's very confident, he'll continue to improve, and he's been improving since the first game of the season, I'm waiting for what's coming with him."
Horford had already sprung up earlier this week about how advanced Tatum is at his age. Horford is anxious to see how Tatum develops early in his career in the NBA. But Celtics coach Brad Stevens has noticed that he no longer considers Tatum's age because the Celtics need him to be a contributor to maintaining his success.
"He certainly has always been a man capable of scoring, that was something you knew he would enter," Stevens said. "Everyone you were talking to, and seeing it, it was pretty clear that he was always going to be able to score the ball, do it at that moment, you never know exactly how the guys will react to that, but he does. courage, has a great attitude, and obviously is extremely skilled "