Jayson Tatum ‘expects’ to shoot better in Game 2, but won’t force shots

Tatum shot just 3-of-17 in Game 1.

Jayson Tatum shot poorly in Game 1 and doesn't expect it to happen again in Game 2.

Celtics star Jayson Tatum didn’t shoot well in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. He made just 3-of-17 shots from the field and was 1-of-5 from 3-point range, giving him 12 points on the evening.

Despite that, not only did the Celtics beat the Warriors in Game 1, but they also scored an astonishing 120 points against the league’s second-best defense. A big reason for that was Tatum’s playmaking. He finished with a career-high 13 assists on Thursday, which were also the most ever by a player in their first NBA Finals game.

While Tatum’s certainly expecting to shoot better in Sunday’s Game 2, he said he isn’t going to go out of his way to try and score.


“I don’t think [I’ll try to force shots],” Tatum told reporters at Saturday’s practice. “I had more assists than points last game. So I feel like I made the right play more often than not. You know, it’s not much to overthink. I feel like it’s a lot of shots, the open shots that I miss more often than not that I make.

“So it’s not something that I’m losing sleep over. You know, we won. That was most important, right? It’s the Finals. That’s all that matters. Obviously, I know I’ve got to play better. I can’t shoot like that every game and hopefully we win. I expect to play better shooting-wise, but just impacting the game in different ways to do my part, and let’s get a win. I will continue to do that. Just read the game, read each play. That’s how I kind of approach next game.”

Thursday’s game certainly wasn’t the first poor shooting night in Tatum’s five-year career. It also wasn’t even his first bad shooting night of the postseason, either.

In Game 3 of the Celtics’ second-round series against the Bucks, Tatum shot 4-of-21 from the field (21.9 percent), scoring just 10 points in a 103-101 loss. In Game 3 of the Celtics’ Eastern Conference finals series against the Heat, Tatum made just 3-of-14 shots, scoring only 10 points again in a 109-103 loss.


After each of those losses though, Tatum scored at least 30 points, making 45.8 percent of his shots in Game 4 against the Bucks and 50 percent of his shots in Game 4 against the Heat.

Tatum explained how he’s been able to have good shooting nights this postseason after shooting poorly just days prior.

“Once you’ve done something before, you know how to respond. I’ve had some bad shooting nights in the NBA. So it’s like, I’ve been here before. I know what to do next game,” Tatum said. “I think a lot of it is mental. You don’t let it creep into your mind. I can’t do nothing about what happened last game. I missed those shots and it is what it is. It’s all about how to prepare and get ready for the next one.

“It was not so much about me and what I need to do. It’s about what we need to do and how we need to be prepared, the adjustments that they are going to make and how they are going to respond. We need to be ready and not relax just because we’re up 1-0.”

Warriors star forward Draymond Green shared on his podcast, “The Draymond Green Show,” that part of Golden State’s strategy was to get the ball out of Tatum’s hands.


Tatum wasn’t sure if the Warriors were “actively” trying to make him a passer, but he said he’s grown used to finding other ways to help the Celtics score.

“I’m certain that they don’t want me to just play one-on-one and things like that. Show a crowd, bring help and things like that,” Tatum said.

“I feel like I did get a lot of open looks just from kick-outs and things like that. But I’m sure part of the game plan, making me a playmaker and not letting me be comfortable, it’s just something I feel like every team has more or less been doing throughout the playoffs. So it’s not necessarily something new.”

Before the 40-point fourth quarter, the Warriors found success in that strategy. In the third, the Celtics scored 24 points on 7-of-19 shooting with five turnovers. Tatum had a rough stretch that quarter, too. He scored four points on 1-of-6 shooting with two assists to two turnovers, which were his only turnovers of the game.

The poor third quarter put the Celtics at a 12-point deficit entering the fourth and while it didn’t make a difference in Game 1, Tatum’s aware that it could later in the series.

“I say it all time, we’ve just got to be more aware. It’s one thing to talk about it, but we’ve got to go out there and do it and just not ease our way into the third quarter that we do a lot of the times,” Tatum said.

“Yeah, I think we just can’t ease our way into the third quarter and wait to get warm and wait until we’re down X amount of points to be like, Oh, (expletive), we got to figure it out and start playing faster and things like that. We’ve got to be more aware of that to start the third quarter.”


Tatum and the Celtics have an opportunity to go up 2-0 in the series on Sunday before the Finals move to Boston for Games 3 and 4.


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