Celtics

How Jayson Tatum’s scoring approach has changed over 3-game, 30-point streak

Tatum's made more shots, but the way he's scoring is different.

Jayson Tatum's shooting has been on the mark as of late. AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

Jayson Tatum might have finally gotten out of the shooting slump that’s plagued him to start the 2021-22 season.

In the Celtics’ last three games, the young star has scored at least 30 points in each game — including a 37-point performance in a win over the Lakers.

So what has Tatum done to get out of the shooting slump? The obvious answer is that he’s just making more shots than he did in the first 14 games of the season. During this three-game run, Tatum’s shooting 51.4 percent from the field, 42.3 percent from 3-point range, and 85 percent from the free-throw line. Those are all improvements from the .409/.347/.787 shooting splits Tatum has so far this season.

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But the way he’s scoring over the last three games is noticeably different compare to the start of the year. The most noticeable change is the number of 3-pointers he’s taken. Tatum’s shot 12, nine, and 12 3s in the last three games, which are all above his season average (8.6 per game). As a matter of fact, he had only shot nine-plus 3s in a non-OT game twice prior to this stretch.

Of the total field goals Tatum’s shot in this three-game stretch, 47.1 percent of them have been 3-pointers, per NBA.com. That’s nearly 10 percent higher than his season average of 38.6 percent. With Tatum shooting more 3s (and making more 3s), naturally, the number of his points coming from behind the arc is higher. In this recent stretch, 43.3 percent of Tatum’s points have come from 3-point territory, which is noticeably higher than the 35.3 percent he’s averaging this season.

By Tatum shooting and scoring more from behind the arc, he’s naturally scoring less from mid-range. This season, 14.3 percent of Tatum’s points have come from mid-range jumpers. Recently, just 9.6 percent of his points are coming on mid-range jumpers.

Tatum’s also relying less on scoring in the paint. This season, Tatum’s scoring 34.2 percent of his points in the paint but in the last three games, that number is 30.8 percent.

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While Tatum hasn’t relied as much on scoring in the paint, he has gotten to the free-throw line more in these three games. In the first 14 games of the season, Tatum averaged just 4.9 free-throw attempts per game. In the last three games, Tatum shot six free throws in one game while shooting seven in the other two. There is some correlation between the number of times Tatum shoots at the line in a game and winning. The Celtics are 5-2 in games Tatum’s shot at least seven free throws this season.

The biggest difference though in how Tatum has scored as of late is coming off assists. This season, 43.6 percent of Tatum’s made shots have come off assists. That number has taken a big leap in the last three games, improving to 61.1 percent of his made shots coming off assists. Two-thirds (66.7 percent) of Tatum’s made 3-pointers have come off assists in the last three games, which is higher than the 54.9 percent he’s averaging this season.

One noticeable moment in which ball movement created an open 3-pointer for Tatum came in the first quarter of Saturday’s win over the Thunder. With six seconds left on the shot clock, Al Horford caught the ball at the top of the key, drove to the basket, and drew attention. He kicked it out to the corner to Marcus Smart, who noticed Tatum was wide open at the top of the key for a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired.

The number of Tatum’s 2-point made shots coming off assists is even higher. Over the last three games, 57.1 percent of Tatum’s made 2-point shots have come off assists, nearly 20 percent higher than he’s averaging this season 38.1 percent.

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With Jaylen Brown’s return to the lineup probable for Monday, it appears the Celtics have found the right approach for Tatum at a good time.

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