Jayson Tatum displayed his abilities to the world last night, attacking the Pelicans relentlessly. He had malice in his game. Not content with his previous possession, he wanted to score again and again.
The way in which he orchestrated his opportunities was intriguing, setting up the defense for bigger shots as the game wore on. To start the game, Tatum attacked the pick-and-roll repeatedly, taking advantage of the poor Pelicans’ coverage.
Jaxson Hayes was deployed in the drop early in the game, which allowed Tatum to attack the pick-and-roll so successfully. Hayes doesn’t have the lateral quickness to stay in front of Tatum when he’s driving into the paint nor does he have the hand speed to apply pressure on the ball handler. Istead, he makes himself big while back peddling in the hopes of deterring the shot.
Tatum attacked out of the pick-and-roll time and time again during the first quarter. Each time he went at Hayes, he used his speed to get to the rim or his ever so pretty step-back to create space in the mid-range. The Pelicans had no answer to the Daniel Theis - Jayson Tatum PnR attack, which culminated with Tatum finishing the quarter with 11 points, three rebounds, and two assists.
The second quarter brought a different mentality in attack. Instead of abusing Hayes on the interior, Tatum decided to get to work from deep. His offense was still being predicated on that Theis-Tatum pick and both Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart took turns in trying to defend it, both failed in similar fashion.
What’s similar here is both of Ingram and Hart went under the screen, which provided Tatum the space to get his shot off in comfort. His step-back is usually a good sign that his confidence is flowing. It also allows him to get into his shooting motion on the fly and create space to shoot over his man.
In the second quarter, Tatum went 3-of-5 from the field and 3-of-4 from deep. He also went to the line and hit both of his free throws, dinishing the quarter with 11 points, 1 rebound and 1 steal.
Tatum entered the third quarter hungry. He could taste blood in the water and knew a career night was in his grasp. This was one of the best quarters Tatum has played in his young career. At times, he looked transcendent.
Having set up the Pelicans defense during the first two quarters, they were unsure of how Tatum would choose to attack them after halftime. Would he revert back to the first quarter and look to get his work done on the inside or did his success from deep in the second indicate what was to come in the third?
In reality, it would be both.
With less than two minutes gone in the third quarter, Tatum stole the ball from Brandon Ingram, swatting it up the court. Having won the ensuing foot race, Tatum got an easy bucket at the rim. There was no looking back from there as he grew in stature on each subsequent play, looking to steal and run whenever possible, which he did moments after the first steal when the jumped the passing lanes for another easy bucket.
After play had settled back down to normal proceedings following those two quick steals, Tatum began to work the seams. He was coming off screens to find room on the perimeter where possible, working to get a mismatch in the process. Lonzo Ball, Ingram and Hart all took turns trying to guard Tatum with each of them failing in similar fashion. They all continued to go under screens which was allowing Tatum to attack at will.
Attack he did, going 8-for-12 from the field and 3-of-5 from deep. The Pelicans could simply not contain him as he proceeded to a career-high 41 points.
There were moments of his brilliance from ISO situations throughout the game, but in general Tatum attacked within the system causing the Pelicans no end of headaches as they struggled to find answers.
With the Celtics up big, Tatum sat the entire fourth quarter, his work already done on what should become a fond career memory for him. Jared Weiss of The Athletic caught up with Tatum which sums up Tatum’s mentality and hunger to continue improving.
“Obviously it feels good for sure, but I never get too high or too low if I play well or if I don’t,” Tatum said. “For me, I feel like I got a long way to go, and the guys I looked up to, they have nights like this more often than not. So obviously it feels good, but just try to do it more often, be consistent, and continue to get better.”
If Tatum continues to approach his career with this mentality, there will be many more nights like this to come, starting with the Bulls on Monday night.