Jayson Tatum’s ascent toward superstardom continued in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, where he again showed that he is among the NBA’s greatest shot makers.
It didn’t start off great for the Boston Celtics, though. The Miami Heat started fast, leading by as much as 10 points in the opening minutes of the game, but the Celtics went supernova from the three-point line to close out the first quarter. Boston completed a 20-3 run in the opening period to turn a 15-21 deficit to 35-24 lead in a flash.
Jaylen Brown went 3 of 3 from deep in the first quarter, and six out of seven Celtics who saw game time made at least one three-pointer in first quarter. Overall, they shot 9 of 11 from three in the first quarter. That set the tone for the rest of the game.
Jayson Tatum started to get hot in the second quarter as well, further adding to Miami’s problems. Tatum had 20 points by halftime and made 7 of 10 shots along with 3 of 4 from deep. His second quarter explosion rewarded his teammates for shooting so well in the first quarter, and carried the Celtics to a 70-45 halftime lead.
The Heat could not get it going on offense in the first half, shooting 41.9% overall and 33.3% from three over the first 24 minutes of the game. The Celtics, on the other hand, shot a ridiculous 57.5% overall and 63.2% from three. There wasn’t a huge disparity in free throws taken either, with the Celtics shooting 10 in the first half and the Heat shooting seven, so it all came down to shotmaking.
Tatum is starting to become the kind of player that you expect to get a bucket, no matter where he is on the floor. He showed this against the Bucks, where he was able to carry the Celtics’ offense when everyone else’s shots stopped falling. However, when his teammates match his scoring, Boston become close to unstoppable. It’s not irrational confidence when it comes to Tatum, either. He really can score from anywhere on the floor, and he’s become a nightmare to guard because of his strong array of offensive moves that keep even elite defenders guessing at all times.
When Tatum slowed down in the second half, finishing with 27 points, five rebounds and five assists, his teammates stepped up again.
Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart helped press the advantage. Smart, in his return from a foot injury, almost had a triple-double with 24 points, nine rebounds, 12 assists, three steals and a block with just a single turnover. Brown had 24 points, eight rebounds and three assists.
You can’t expect the Celtics to shoot so hot again in Game 3, but they got the job done and now have home court. We’ll have to see how Miami responds, but I’ve got a feeling they won’t take getting embarrassed 127-102 lightly.