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Jayson Tatum on his struggles: ‘I will be better’

Jayson Tatum looks to bounce back after struggling in the first two games against the Bucks.

NBA: Playoffs-Boston Celtics at Milwaukee Bucks Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The first two games for the Boston Celtics in its Eastern Conference semifinal series with the Milwaukee Bucks brought some good, and certainly some bad as well.

Put Jayson Tatum into the latter category.

Tatum’s usually high-level performances in the postseason have been nonexistent versus the Bucks. Tatum has scored just nine points in the series while shooting a rancid 23.5% for the floor on 4-of-17 made attempts and has yet to knock down a 3-pointer. But with the series obviously still in the balance, tied at 1-1 coming back to Boston Friday night, Tatum is looking to break out of his slump and give the Celtics a vital boost.

“I acknowledge that I got to be better overall and I will be better,” Tatum said. “It’s a bad game. It happens. I don’t think too much of it. Just ready for Game 3.”

Tatum’s numbers have been pristine in the playoffs until this matchup with Milwaukee. Tatum didn’t look like a rookie in Boston’s playoff run a season ago when he led the C’s in scoring with 18.5 points per game on 47.1% shooting.

And after a regular season in which C’s fans were asking if Tatum had taken a step back instead of forward in his second year, he delivered in the opening-round series against the Indiana Pacers. Tatum shot a remarkable 50.3%, including a 53.3% mark from beyond the arc, in the four-game sweep of the Pacers while averaging 19.3 points per game.

So this mere two-game stretch could just be an aberration for Tatum, whose play has always risen to the occasion in the playoffs. In a dominate Game 1 win over the Bucks, Tatum made just 2-of-7 shots, but looked engaged on the defensive end as he was credited with three blocks. But Tatum followed it up with another lackluster shooting performance, making only 2-of-10 attempts in Game 2 as the C’s got steamrolled.

While Tatum isn’t settling for jumpers – that has put him in trouble in the past – his rhythm isn’t there at the moment offensively. The Bucks deciding to veer from their usual defensive game plan and switch aggressively might have Tatum off-kilter. Tatum said he watched the film and hopefully that will give him the answers to solve his puzzling play.

“They’ve been playing good defense. I got to give them credit. They’re a good team,” Tatum said. “I got to do better. I know I haven’t been playing well. Tomorrow’s a new opportunity and I’m excited.”

One person who definitely isn’t worried about Tatum is Celtics coach Brad Stevens. So expect Tatum to get the same minutes and put up the same number of shots in an effort to get himself out of this funk.

“It’s great, law of averages plays itself out,” Stevens said. “He’ll be fine.”

If only we could all stay as calm as Stevens.

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