Boston Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum showed up in a big way to help his team regain control of the series in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
When the best player in the world is wearing a Cleveland Cavaliers uniform, it is easy to ignore the other good players on the court. Not for Boston Celtics fans, however. This team has a cast of future stars shining now.
One of them is Jayson Tatum.
To echo Rick Pitino, Kyrie Irving is not walking through that door, Gordon Hayward has not walked through that door all season. Yet, this Celtics team is just one game away from a trip to the 2018 NBA Finals.
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Aside from a coach in Brad Stevens who is sculpturing his own legendary status, a 20-year-old rookie has put on his grown man shoes and is showing the world just why Celtics president of basketball operations passed on the No. 1 pick overall to select Tatum.
All season long we’ve been impressed by his maturity. While there have been times, and obvious moments during these Eastern Conference Finals that his youth and inexperience has shown, the skinny 6-foot-8, 205-pound forward has shown more than just a flash of stardom.
No fear of the big moment
Reflecting on Wednesday night’s 96-83 Game 5 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, Tatum showed just way NBA legends like Paul Pierce and Kobe Bryant have been raving about him. Not only did he provide the team with an offensive spark, the Duke product did it defensively with some key block shots and steals.
He was simply all over the place, proving that the pressure and moment is not too big for him.
"“I think he will be the first to tell you that he enjoys playing in these types of games,” Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said following the game. “And was looking forward to tonight after the two in Cleveland.”"
Leading the team with 24 points, including some clutch shots down the stretch, Tatum has clearly broken out as the team’s more reliable offensive weapon without Irving and Hayward on the court.
Not only has he shown tremendous patience, he has shown an All-Star level of composure in creating his offense. Not to say he doesn’t need to polish his overall offensive game a bit, but the signs are there that he is special.
"“It’s like night and day,” Tatum said of the pressure of the playoffs. “Guys are going to be physical, especially with me being the young guy. That tends to happen a lot. It’s just guys trying to be stronger and bigger than me, so they’re just trying to be more physical. I know it’s coming. It’s been happening all playoffs. So I’ve just got to fight through it [and] keep my composure.”"
As the pressure and physicality intensifies with Game 6 and perhaps a Game 7 approaching, it will be interesting to see how this 20-year-old phenom adjusts. So far, he has been just playing his game.
In doing so, Jayson Tatum is gaining the confidence and experience that will take his career a long way and perhaps into something legendary.