In Jayson Tatum standards, he is in the midst of a minor slump following a month in which the Boston Celtics forward was among the best players in the NBA.
Admittedly, it’s a rather small sample size, but in the last two games Tatum has shot just 36.6 percent from the field (15-for-41) as the Celtics’ have been handed two losses by the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder.
To depict just how uncommon those nights have been for February’s Player of the Month, Tatum not scoring 20 or more points in consecutive games marked the first time it’s happened since Jan. 8. Prior to that, Tatum recorded five consecutive 30-plus point nights and scored 20-plus in 18 of his last 20 games.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens had a realistic explanation as to why Tatum’s numbers have decreased recently — opposing defenses.
?They?re physical, they?re dialed in, they?re ready to go,? Stevens said after Sunday’s 105-104 loss to the Thunder, per MassLive’s Tom Westerholm. ?That?s why whenever I talk to him about it, I always say, ?Doesn?t this make you respect the best even more?? They get it every day from everybody. That?s hard.”
Tatum’s February shine put the league on notice, and now they’re acting on it.
?They are up on his pick-and-rolls,” Stevens said. “They?re more active with high hands and will throw an occasional blitz on the pick-and-roll, but no run and jumps like we saw with the Lakers, no super hard traps like we saw in some of the other games, including the Cavs game where he handled them really well. But the best defenders are on him in every game.”
That’s what happens when you’re one of the game’s youngest stars.
Tatum, however, has the opportunity to put that behind him and get started on another dominant stretch Tuesday when the Celtics travel to the Indiana Pacers at 7 p.m. ET.