Boston Celtics

In terms of his shooting performance, Jayson Tatum’s NBA Finals debut likely didn’t go the way he’d imagined. In 42 minutes on the floor, Tatum scored just 12 points while shooting 3-of-17 from the floor and 1-of-5 from deep. However, that shooting performance hardly kept Tatum from impacting the game. He made his presence felt in other ways.

Tatum was named to the All-NBA First Team last month. When asked what he thought was the biggest change in his game that elevated him to that position, the 24-year-old cited his playmaking ability. Well, that skill set was on full display on the biggest stage in Game 1. Thursday night, Tatum recorded 13 assists – setting a new record for the most by a player in their first NBA Finals game. Those assists led to 35 Celtics points.

On top of that, Tatum turned the ball over just twice. Turnovers have been an issue for Tatum in the playoffs overall – he’s averaged 4.3 per game after averaging 2.9 per game in the regular season. But Thursday night, he was totally in control. He finished the game with a plus-16 rating, including a monstrous plus-27 in the fourth quarter.

So, how did Tatum feel about his overall performance after the game? Pretty good, considering the team’s performance.

“Ecstatic, right? 40 points in the fourth quarter? J.B. [Jaylen Brown] played big. Al [Horford], Payton [Pritchard], [Derrick] D-White. Those guys made big shots, timely shots as well,” he noted. “And we won, right? I had a bad shooting night. I just tried to impact the game in other ways. We’re in the championship. We’re in the Finals. All I was worried about was trying to get a win, and we did. That’s all that matters at this point. So I don’t expect to shoot that bad again. But if it means we keep winning, I’ll take it.”

Perhaps Tatum’s biggest point of growth in this game was the way he handled help defenders blitzing him and full-on double teams. The Miami Heat started throwing those looks at Tatum often late in the Eastern Conference Finals, and at times he seemed overwhelmed by the pressure. That wasn’t the case in Game 1 of the Finals, as he regularly found the open player in situations where a second defender started closing in on him.

After the game, Tatum was asked if there was anything specific the Warriors were doing that helped him have success moving the ball in those situations. “Just reading the play,” he said. “They do a great job of helping and things like that. So, you know, obviously it’s just as simple as if you draw two, find somebody that’s open. That’s what I was just trying to do.”

According to head coach Ime Udoka, Tatum’s Game 1 performance is something he’s been working on all season. “We’ve talked about it throughout the year and I’ve talked to him at length about impacting the game when he’s not having his best offensive night,” Udoka said after the game. “He did that tonight. Obviously going 3-17, that’s usually not going to happen. What he did well and did early was get others involved. 7 of 9 assists pretty early in the game, finished with 13, and the shots not falling, he still attracts a good amount of attention, made the right plays.

“I love his growth and progression in those areas, where he’s still guarding on the defensive end, still getting others involved, not pouting about his shots, and trying to play through some mistakes and physicality they were playing with him,” Udoka continued. “When they went a box-and-one on him to try to take him out, it made it tough at times, but that’s why we’re a team. We don’t rely on one guy. You saw others step up tonight.”

The next step for Tatum and the Celtics is seeing how the Warriors adjust to his improved playmaking, and what adjustments they’ll make. Will they double Tatum less, giving him more of the one-on-one opportunities where he’s so impactful? Will they continue to force the ball out of his hands, creating more chances for the Celtics’ other scorers? They’ll have two days to figure it out before the teams return to play for Game 2 on Sunday night. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m., with pregame coverage beginning at 7:30 on 98.5 The Sports Hub and the 98.5 The Sports Hub Celtics Radio Network.

PHOTOS: Celtics battle Warriors in Game 1 of 2022 NBA Finals

Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.


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Al Horford becomes unlikely hero of Celtics' dominant fourth quarter in Game 1

  • Al Horford is, in fact, good. What he did in Game 1 of the NBA Finals was greatness.

    On a night when the Warriors made life difficult for Jayson Tatum, who ultimately couldn’t overcome the challenge, Horford and others rose to the occasion in the fourth quarter of Game 1, keying a furious comeback that ended up a stunning 12-point win. Horford scored 11 of his 26 points in just the final 5:10 of regulation, including a streak of eight straight points after the C’s tied the game.

    The Celtics never looked back from there. Horford dished it to Marcus Smart on the next Boston possession, and Smart drained another three. Smart would hit yet another triple on the following possession, continuing the Celtics’ relentless gut-punch. This was all part of a blistering 17-0 run in the middle of the quarter.

    Being the consummate pro and teammate that he is, Horford was quick to credit others and laud the Celtics’ complete team effort over the final 12 minutes.

    “It was the way that we were moving the ball on offense, just being in those positions,” Horford said after the game. “I felt like the guys kept finding me time after time. Also Derrick White hit some tough shots there, too. Yeah, it was just get the looks, knock ’em down, that’s that.”

    Adam Jones Show | Instant Reactions: Celtics Win Game 1

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    Horford didn’t exactly have to go out of his way to compliment the effort of his teammates. White scored 21, including 13 in the second half, and shot 5-of-8 from 62.5 percent. Jaylen Brown carried the first half of the Celtics’ comeback, with 10 of his 24 points coming within the first five minutes of the fourth quarter.

    But Thursday night was another example of Horford’s surprising ability to come through in big moments for the Celtics. They may not survive the series leaning on that kind of effort throughout, but Horford’s timely excellence has complemented his leadership presence for much of this postseason run. He pulled that tricky balance off again in Game 1 of the Finals, keeping his teammates focused and leading by example with his late-game execution.

    “Just continue to play. That was our message throughout the whole game,” Horford said. “They’re such a good team. And for us, it was just, you know, continue to play no matter what. And our guys, that’s what we did.”

    “It wasn’t our best game, but we continued to fight and find different ways to get this win.”

  • What About Jayson?

    Jun 2, 2022; San Francisco, California, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) dribbles the ball while defended by Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) and center Kevon Looney (left) during the first half of game one of the 2022 NBA Finals at Chase Center. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

    Jun 2, 2022; San Francisco, California, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) dribbles the ball while defended by Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) and center Kevon Looney (left) during the first half of game one of the 2022 NBA Finals at Chase Center. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

    The Celtics’ come-from-behind win was thrilling and worth celebrating in Boston. But it’s going to be an uphill battle throughout the series if Jayson Tatum can’t take over offensively.

    It was an NBA Finals opening act to forget for Tatum, who scored just 12 points on 3-of-17 from the field. Exemplifying his improved all-around play this season, Tatum managed to rack up 13 assists, which was actually a new record for an NBA Finals debut. But that was mainly because the Warriors committed so much defensive attention to him, used so many resources, that they ensured it wouldn’t be Tatum who beat them.

    “I had a bad shooting night. I just tried to impact the game in other ways,” Tatum said after the game. “We’re in the championship, we’re in the finals. All I was worried about was trying to get a win, and we did, and that’s all that matters at this point.

    “I don’t expect to shoot that bad every night, but if it means we keep winning, I’ll take it.”

    Horford, Brown, and others joined forces to make up for a down night for Tatum, who slogged through a mix of physical defense and deteriorating shot selection. If the C’s do end up winning the series, their superior offensive depth could ultimately be the reason why. But it’s hard to imagine them winning the Finals without a Tatum awakening.

    Still plenty of time for that.

  • Big-Stage Jaylen

    Jun 2, 2022; San Francisco, California, USA; Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) dunks the ball during the first quarter against the Golden State Warriors in game one of the 2022 NBA Finals at Chase Center. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

    Jun 2, 2022; San Francisco, California, USA; Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) dunks the ball during the first quarter against the Golden State Warriors in game one of the 2022 NBA Finals at Chase Center. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

    If Brown keeps this up, he may be worthy of a “Big-Game” type of nickname. “Big-Stage Jaylen” may not quite cut it. But that’s not important right now. What’s important is that Brown is a stone-cold killer in the fourth quarter.

    Brown ignited the Celtics’ late comeback in the first place, and exuded a fearlessness throughout Game 1 that should serve him well in this series, and whenever he gets to this big a stage. He wasn’t afraid to attack, and produced when they truly needed it the most. His explosion was exemplary of the Celtics really coming together as a team in the fourth.

    “Offensively, I just tried to get our team going by being aggressive and finding the right plays, and some shots went down for us and it kind of just snowballed,” Brown told ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt after the game.

    According to StatMuse on Twitter, Brown is now shooting 66.7 percent from the field in the fourth quarter during the 2022 playoffs, and leads all players in fourth-quarter points. So, it’s important for the Warriors to remember that the Celtics have two offensive studs. Even if they can keep Tatum in check, there’s still Brown to worry about.

    He gave them plenty to worry about in Game 1.

  • Sounds of the Game: Celtics’ 17-0 Run

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    Listen above for a recap of the call of the game from Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell on 98.5 The Sports Hub, as the Celtics surged for a 17-0 run in the middle of the fourth quarter.

  • WATCH: Celtics-Warriors Game 1 Highlights

Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @realmattdolloff. You can also email him at mdolloff@985thesportshub.com.

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