Kemba Walker had some advice for Jayson Tatum prior to Wednesday night’s matchup against the Washington Wizards with Tatum coming off the worst shooting performance of his professional career.
“It’s all about the bounce back,” Walker told Tatum according to Mark D’Amico of Celtics.com.
Tatum responded accordingly after Monday’s absolutely horrendous performance when he made just 1-of-18 shots against the Dallas Mavericks by not allowing that dreadful play to carry over with the Wizards at the TD Garden, which is without a doubt a good sign for the 21-year-old Tatum.
He looked more like the polished offensive player he is, albeit against a porous Washington defense, by hitting 9-of-20 attempts from the floor and finishing as the C’s second-leading scorer with 23 points to go along with four assists and three rebounds in the 140-133 win.
“It felt good to see some shots go in — better than 1 for 18,” Tatum said.
Making it just a one-game setback instead of a more prolonged poor shooting slump was critical for Tatum, especially with the C’s relying on him even more of the offensive end over the coming weeks with Gordon Hayward sidelined, and it showed his continuous maturation as a player.
While Tatum’s late-night shooting session at the C’s practice facility following his terrible showing versus the Mavericks could have played a part in getting Tatum out of his funk, it was more his aggressiveness in attacking the rim that paid dividends.
Tatum didn’t settle for turnaround, contested jumpers like he would have a year ago, instead, seven of Tatum’s nine field goals came from 12 feet or closer to the basket — Tatum also made all four of his free throws attempts. The willingness to drive was also needed with Tatum hitting just 1-of-5 3-pointers.
It took just 1:40 into the contest with the Wizards for Tatum to have more buckets than he did all of Monday night. Tatum has showed off a much improved floater this year and brought it out early in the first quarter while warding off Bradley Beal.
And on several occasions when Tatum got in or around the paint, he displayed good body control to evade defenders while also using an array of pump fakes to create more space.
The Celtics desperately needed Tatum’s historically bad shooting night to begin the week to just be a fluke. There were several reasons why not many, if anyone, thought Tatum would play that poorly again, but it was good to see the visual of Tatum putting together a solid to contribute to another win.
“Yeah that was important. ... Especially for a guy of his age and caliber,” said Walker of Tatum bouncing back. “I’m excited how he handled tonight’s game.”