At halftime of Wednesday’s night game against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Boston Celtics were facing a 58-42 deficit. The team could not find any rhythm offensively which led to the Bucks getting into transition, their favorite style of play. Whenever the Celtics came within single digits, Milwaukee always hit the clutch shot to push the lead back out killing any crowd momentum that was building.
This was all until the second half began and the script completely flipped. The Bucks squandered a 16-point lead in the third quarter resulting in the Celtics leading by 4 at the end of three. Boston went on to extend that lead and take a major Eastern Conference win. It all started with this third quarter surge.
Throughout this whole comeback, Jayson Tatum stood out as one of the crucial players who pushed the team back into it. He finished with 20 second half points shooting 8-for-12 from the field and 4-for-4 from three. In the third quarter alone, he scored 11 points draining three triples from behind the arc. Tatum took on the leadership role of this offense having the confidence to pull up from three or, more importantly, drive to the basket to finish around the rim. Boston was able to turn the momentum by playing their style of team-first basketball not settling for ill-advised shots.
For Tatum, it looked like a fire was lit underneath him as he started taking command of this game. He played to his strengths against a Bucks lineups that showed some weaknesses. Tatum focused on attacking the rim when necessary and limiting the pull-up mid-ranges which have been a concern for him over the past year.
A second half shot chart showing only one mid-range jumper outside of the paint and a perfect percentage from three is a recipe for a win. That is exactly what Tatum brought to the Celtics in that second half. He fed into a rowdy crowd that was urging the team to get back in the game after halftime. The team took that call led by Tatum’s three three-pointers in the third quarter to fire them up and wipe out the Bucks 16-point lead.
This was an outstanding offensive performance from Jayson Tatum in the second half. He had flashes of the All-Star that everyone sees him as one day. The step-back three at the end of the third quarter was one of the smoothest offensive plays he has shown in his time in the league. It will be deadly if he can add that shot consistently to his offensive arsenal. He was absolutely feeling it in this one.
Even as his offense led the show, Tatum’s defense really stood out as well limiting the Bucks opportunities to answer the Celtics’ scoring runs. The Celtics went on a 24-2 run in the second half which was anchored by incredible team defense. Everyone understood the plan of clogging the paint making it difficult for Giannis Antetokounmpo to get to the rim and finish. Either Tatum switched over by helping out, or he picked up Giannis at the top of the key and did a wonderful job of staying in front to get a defensive stop. Holding this Bucks team to 2 points on a 24-point run is quite an impressive feat.
Jayson Tatum has the length and basketball IQ to have a defensive impact each night on the court. But once that is combined with the offense where everything is going right for him then the sky is the limit on his potential in this league. Games like this show the All-Star levels he can reach if all of it comes together consistently. This season it will be very fun to see the strides he takes to jump up to yet another level. Sit back, relax, and watch the rise of Jayson Tatum.