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CelticsBlog Player of the Week #2: Jayson Tatum (again)

It was a tough week for the Celtics, but continued MVP-caliber play from their best player remained a bright spot.

Washington Wizards v Boston Celtics Photo by Nick Grace/Getty Images

We’re back once again with another edition of the CelticsBlog Player of the Week, and it would be hard to draw up a circumstance more different than we saw last time out. The Celtics followed their sterling 3-0 Opening Week by getting stuck in the mud, to an extent. A promising first quarter on Monday night against the Chicago Bulls gave way to disappointing blowout defeat, followed up by an overtime defeat against Cleveland that saw a leaky defense surrender 132 points. Finally, on Sunday night, they snapped their mini-skid, locking down a streaking Washington Wizards offense to rally to 4-2 on the new season.

So, who were our standouts for the week? Let’s get into it with the runners-up.

Honorable Mentions

Being a bit of a tough week for the Celtics, the list of compelling candidates for this week’s Player of the Week award was similarly sparse. Still, there are a few players worth highlighting here. Jaylen Brown was, once again, one stinker (an 8-of-23 performance against Chicago) short of perhaps claiming the crown. Malcolm Brogdon had his “welcome to Boston” moment at home against the Wizards on Sunday, scoring 23 points in as many minutes in the blowout win. Luke Kornet (!) made his season debut, and looked the part of a possible rotation contributor during his minutes against Cleveland and Washington. He even hit a sidestep three??

It’s still, however, a scant list, which means our choice for the week was left fairly clear.

CelticsBlog Player of the Week #2: Jayson Tatum

27 PPG, 52% FG, 48% 3PT (8 3PA), 94% FT (5 FTA), 6 RPG, 4 APG, -8

Perhaps this isn’t the most exciting pick. After all, I’ve always espoused the value of highlighting lower-profile contributions to the team’s success on a week-to-week basis. Not only are we not doing that here, we’re awarding the team’s best player for the second consecutive week to open the season. That’s uncharacteristic for this column.

General distaste for a repeat winner aside, a shaky week combined with Tatum’s all-around dominance, make him a fairly easy choice here.

We can start with the “wow!” stat right up top: Tatum is the only player averaging 30 points per game on 50/40/90 shooting in the entire NBA. That is, suffice it to say, absolutely ludicrous. Tatum is carrying his usual massive workload, but he’s doing so with unfathomable efficiency. It’s only been six games, and these kinds of comparisons are foolish, but — this is the stuff the Kevin Durant MVP season was made of.

The big difference between what we discussed here last week compared to now is the three-point shooting. After starting the year with a pair of 2-for-7 games from behind the arc, Tatum has gone nuclear. He’s made 16 threes in his past four games, and across the three matchups that counted for this week’s consideration, he connected on 48% of his attempts. The early-season struggles of the past two years have been a thing of the past.

His first quarter against the Wizards was high comedy. The Celtics’ first 23 points were accounted for exclusively by either Tatum or Jaylen Brown, and the duo combined for 27 of the team’s 35 points in the frame. He opened up the game with a pair of three-pointers, and, after tagging out with Brown for a few possessions, connected on his third straight shortly thereafter.

By and large, there’s basically nothing Tatum isn’t doing well right now. It’s one of those magical stretches of basketball where it feels like a player can do pretty much anything, and it’ll still work out. Thus far, it has.

It may not have been as successful a week as anyone would have liked — this is the first Player of the Week winner to record a negative plus-minus for the week, though that’s due in no small part to the Celtics’ blazing hot second half last season — but at the end of the day, the Celtics are sitting at 4-2, and it’s the play of their MVP candidate that has them there. So for the time being, he hangs onto his crown.

Looking ahead, the Celtics have another three-game week ahead of them — all on national television, and featuring two chances for revenge. First, they’ll head to Cleveland for a road tilt against the upstart Cavaliers on Wednesday night, before returning home to host the Chicago Bulls at TD Garden on Friday. Finally, they’ll close out the slate with the second half of a back-to-back, shipping down to the other Garden for their first matchup with the New York Knicks of the new season on Saturday evening.

Will we see a new name in this space next week or will Tatum continue to scorch the nets as he has through the first six games? Sound off in the comments below with your thoughts.

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