By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
What we are now seeing, quite frankly, can only be described one way: as an ascension.
But in case you missed it, Jayson Tatum did it again last night, scoring more than 30 points for the third straight game – in the span of just four days – to help the Celtics to a 114-103 win in Utah. In the last three games – at the Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers, and Jazz, Tatum’s numbers look like something generated by a supercomputer.
The summation: 36.7 points per game on 62.9 percent shooting, including 62.5 percent from beyond the three-point arc. Tatum has scored a total of 110 points on just 62 shots, going, in order, 12-of-20, 14-of-22, and 13-of-20. And the most recent assault on the opposing rim looked like this:
So, has Tatum arrived – and for good? Time will tell. Greatness in any sport is defined by consistency, not meteoric bursts. But we all know the ceiling here. After the Celtics were edged by the Lakers on Sunday – a game in which Tatum scored 41 points – LeBron James went to Instagram to describe Tatum as a “problem.” Then Tatum torched both Portland and Utah on consecutive nights, stampeding through the west as if he were the two-man tandem of Lewis and Clark.
If this is the start of something great – and there is every chance it is – what this means for the Celtics is obvious. In the NBA, especially, great teams are built around great players, not good ones. And while Tatum’s game still has plenty of room for growth – he can still become a better passer, for instance, especially when the double-teams start coming en masse – his improvements in offensive efficiency and on defense this season have been noticeable.
Does this mean the Celtics will make a run at the Eastern Conference championship this season – and, therefore, the Finals? Probably not.
But what it means is that the Celtics may have found the long-term centerpiece they have been seeking for quite some time – and someone, finally, whom the other guys now regard as a serious obstacle.
Or, rather, problem.