Celtics

Ime Udoka says Jayson Tatum was ‘pressing’ in Celtics’ first game

"We’re going to ride with him and tell him to take the open shots when he has them.”

Celtics Jayson Tatum
Jayson Tatum. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
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As hot as Jaylen Brown was against the New York Knicks, star teammate Jayson Tatum was not in the Celtics’ opening night loss Wednesday.

Though Tatum managed 20 points in his first regular-season action of 2021, it didn’t come easily. The All-Star forward shot just 7-of-30 (23 percent) from the field, including 2-of-15 from three-point land, and couldn’t support Brown’s incredible 46-point outburst to knock off the Knicks in overtime.

But his new coach, Ime Udoka, isn’t sweating Tatum’s struggles.

The Celtics’ first-year head coach attributed his star scorer’s struggles to Tatum just being out of rhythm when speaking with the Zolak and Bertrand Show on 98.5 The Sports Hub on Thursday.

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“Once he missed a few early, I think he started pressing and really trying to find his shot, and settled for a few contested threes,” Udoka said. “We still want him to attack the basket and put him in a few different spots, so he’s not sitting on the perimeter the whole time, but a lot of those looks were wide-open.”

Udoka suggested Tatum settled for too many threes, saying the two-time All-Star could “shave those down when you’re not shooting it as well,” but added he still wants Tatum to be aggressive as a scorer.

“Guys were penetrating and kicking, he got open looks. Maybe it was a little fatigue late, but early in the game, just missed some wide-open ones,” the coach said. “For the most part, we’re going to ride with him and tell him to take the open shots when he has them.”

Early season struggles are nothing new for Tatum. Per Basketball-Reference, the Celtics forward shoots just 39.5 percent in the month of October for his career — his lowest shooting percentage in any month in which he’s played more than 10 career games.

But things usually turn the corner swiftly once the 23-year-old gets into the swing of things: his lifetime shooting percentage in November spikes up to 45.5 percent, which almost exactly matches his career percentage from the field.

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Tatum will get a chance to start turning things around Friday night when the Celtics take on the Toronto Raptors at T.D. Garden.

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