Monday night’s Game 4 Celtics win saw a true bounce-back effort from Jayson Tatum. In Game 3, Tatum put together one of the worst postseason performances of his young career scoring just 10 points on 3-of-14 shooting in 40 minutes on the floor while turning the ball over six times. There was a lot of focus on Tatum after that Saturday loss, given how the Celtics trimmed a 21-point deficit to just one in the final minutes, but Tatum hampered the comeback effort down the stretch. Still, Tatum responded in a big way. The 24-year-old scored 31 points in 34 minutes while shooting 8-of-16 from the field and posting eight rebounds, five assists, and just three turnovers in the team’s Game 4 win.
What goes into that kind of turnaround? Asked to detail the 48 hours between Games 3 and 4, Tatum said the key was keeping a level head.
“Right after is tough, right? Frustrated how you played. Knowing how important this time of year is, and feeling like you let your teammates down. Especially in a – we lost by like six? But I think I do a really good job of – after I sleep it off – regardless if I have 10 points or 46 points, the next day is the next day and whatever happened, happened,” Tatum explained. “I’m a big believer [in] you can’t change what happened. So, the last 48 hours have been cool. Watching basketball, ate, it was just a normal day.
“Obviously I was ready to get back to play, but I didn’t doubt myself. I know how to play basketball. Regardless of how many points I score, just trying to come out and help us get a win, that was most important.”
The turnovers in particular were a big focus not just for Tatum but the team as a whole. In Game 3, the Celtics gave the ball away 24 times, tying a season high.
In Game 4, the Celtics trimmed the turnover number significantly. They had just nine as a team, and Tatum had none in the first half of a game that was truly decided by halftime. After the game, Tatum said fixing that issue was a team effort.
“We had, what, 24 turnovers last game? That’s why we struggled last game,” he noted. “That was obviously something that we talked about in film, just trying to take care of the ball and be better in that aspect.”
The next challenge for Tatum and the Celtics will be finding a way to win back-to-back games in a series that has alternated winners with massive momentum swings from game-to-game. No team has won back-to-back games in this series, which each side talking about the increase in urgency after a loss fueling the ensuing victory. Along those lines, Tatum says the Celtics need to approach Game 5 as if their backs are against the wall, even if they’re not.
“It’s 2-2. It’s kind of like a new series, a best-of-3,” Tatum said when asked what the team needs to do to keep the intensity level up heading back to Miami for Game 5. “Just having a conversation that human nature plays a part in – when you win a game you can relax a little bit, but obviously when we lose a game we feel like the next game is do-or-die and then we come out and play how we did and things like that. I think we have to have that mindset going into Game 5 that it is a must-win game, because tonight was essentially something like that. Everybody knew it, we could all feel it, and I think that showed in the way we came out.”
Just like the rest of the series, there will only be one day off before the team’s return to action for that Game 5 on Wednesday. Coverage begins at 8 p.m. on 98.5 The Sports Hub and the 98.5 The Sports Hub Celtics Radio Network, with tip-off set for 8:30.