Boston Celtics: Jayson Tatum is evolving right before our eyes

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports
Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports /

The Boston Celtics thrilling midseason resurgence has found a way to reach new heights. A 3-0 week with wins over legitimate competition (the Atlanta Hawks, Memphis Grizzlies, and Brooklyn Nets) has helped further prove the Celtics are indeed for real.

The reasons Boston has suddenly turned into a bonafide title contender have been reviewed at C&C quite thoroughly to this point. Among them are the team’s lockdown defense, improved point guard play from Marcus Smart, and a bigger contribution from the bench unit. Even with all those things working for the C’s recently, it still felt like something was missing.

There’s no shame in admitting that a large stretch of this winning run was helped immensely by an easy schedule. Yet when the team lost, it was becasue they couldn’t figure out how to either pull off a comeback or hold onto a lead in the fourth. On a team with two stars in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, no one on the Celtics would step up and take charge with the game on the line.

That all changed this past week, in which Tatum dominated the proceedings on his way to earning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors. Much has been made about Tatum’s path to superstardom this season, and after a slow start to the campaign, it appears Tatum is finally beginning to realize his full potential.

Jayson Tatum is emerging as a real superstar for the Boston Celtics

I have touched on Tatum’s challenge of becoming a legitimate superstar a couple times this season. Early on in the season, his play seemed to showcase a player who believed all the hype about himself, but failed to live up to the billing on the court. At the All-Star break, when Boston was fresh off winning nine of their last 10 games, I highlighted how good Tatum had been, but how he still needed to work on influincing games like the rest of the NBA’s star players do.

It’s safe to say Tatum did that last week. After suffering a tough loss to the Indiana Pacers, the Celtics reeled off three straight hard fought wins over some serious competiton. While the Hawks have struggled this season, their offense is still dangerous as ever. And the Grizzlies and Nets are two of the best teams in the league (even if the Nets record says otherwise).

Winning two of these games would have been considered a really good week of basketball, but they upped the ante and won all three. And at the center of all three of those wins was Tatum, who managed to take over these games down the stretch and lead Boston to three huge wins.

Chowder And Champions
Chowder And Champions /

Want your voice heard? Join the Chowder And Champions team!

Write for us!

Against the Hawks, Tatum helped erase a 14 point halftime deficit with a massive third quarter showing. He helped cool off Hawks star guard Trae Young on the other end of the court as well, as he had dominated the proceedings in the first half. In the second half though, Tatum was in charge.

Against the Grizzlies, it was Tatum again who managed to hold off the Grizzlies’ rallying efforts. Ja Morant, after struggling in the first half, finally woke up in the second half and was scoring at will. The only issue was Tatum matched him shot for shot, and finished with 37 points, including an absured 21 in the fourth quarter.

The Boston Celtics toughtest test came against the Nets, who had both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving healthy for just the fourth time this season. Tatum outplayed both of them on his way to scoring a season high 54 points. Tatum only got stronger as the game went on, and his 18 fourth quarter points helped hold off the dangerous duo of Durant and Irving just long enough for Boston to get the win.

Earlier on this season, I suggested Tatum needed to be able to takeover games in the fourth quarter in order for him to be considered a legitimate superstar. His performances from last week, particualrly against Memphis and Brooklyn, is precisely what I was talking about. These are games earlier in the season that the Boston Celtics would have lost. Tatum ensured that wasn’t going to happen this time around.

Next. Praise to Ime Udoka; Nik Stauskas a sneaky good pickup. dark

This is Tatum evolving into a superstar right before our eyes. He went head-to-head with two of the most dangerous scorers in the league in Morant and Durant, and he outdueled them both. That’s what it takes to be a superstar, and up until recently, it had been the final step that had eluded Tatum.

A couple of wins over actual competition isn’t going to win a championship though. And we have also seen stretches where Tatum plays like this, only to regress back to his old ways a short time later. But this is the most dominant Tatum has looked throughout his career, and if he keeps it up, he will fully achieve the superstar status that he has been chasing for the past few seasons.