The Portland Trail Blazers, like every other team after the All-Star break, had no answer for Boston Celtics young star Jayson Tatum on Tuesday night.
The spirit of Kobe Bryant certainly lives in Jayson Tatum. The Boston Celtics superstar (as my co-worker Sam Minton perfectly exclaims in his own writing) is shooting fire out of his veins, placing fear in opponents’ eyes, and conjuring double teams more than James Harden nowadays.
He’s averaging a whopping 30.3 points-per-game in the month of February according to Basketball-Reference, and leads the team in scoring since Kemba Walker‘s been sidelined with a sore left knee. He’s experiencing a superhuman journey of epic proportions, and living up the lofty heights since his Duke days.
In the past, particularly as a rookie, Tatum would too often portray himself as a deer-in-the-headlights type of player, particularly on fast break attempts. He carried the “Mamba mentality,” but didn’t quite have control of his full skill-set quite yet.
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He would commit turnovers on easy 3-on-1 situations, and lose sight of open teammates on a whim. He’s still working on that aspect of his game, but it’s slowly been improving as of late.
We’ve seen inklings of greatness, especially in the 2018 playoffs during the Boston Celtics vs. Cleveland Cavaliers series. He showcased an offensive prowess only marginally seen from players under the age of 25, and very rarely (if at all) seen in players under 20.
To most, his 41-point Los Angeles Laker performance on Sunday afternoon would’ve probably been a season apex. But his appearance in Portland was arguably just as good, if not better. The 21-year-old displayed confidence through his tendency to swing around picks with ease, pop open for three, or slash to the rim once Portland started playing up on him.
He shot 8-12 from three and 14-22 overall, finishing with 36 in a 118-106 win. You can see just based on a small portion of his highlights, Tatum understands where his hot spots are, specifically behind the three-point line. His shooting in general has improved immensely, and he’s already athletic enough in the paint to either finish with ease, or get to the line.
Due to this scorching streak, more opponents are becoming inclined to double team him at first glance, but that also leaves Brown and Smart open; two guys who’ve also taken large steps on the offensive end. Brown especially can cut to the rim without the defense even blinking an eye.
Once Walker comes back, Tatum’s unprecedented run will surely quiet down, not because this is unexpected, but because it’s long season. It’s virtually impossible to continue a run like this for a full 82-game slate, plus the playoffs. Not to mention, Walker will naturally take some of those points away
In the meantime, Jayson Tatum has morphed into a similar Kobe caricature; exuding confidence and poise in flying colors for five-plus games, and continues to rock the coolest elbow sleeve in the league. The NBA is ready for another superstar from Boston.