Celtics Notes: Jayson Tatum’s Bounce-Back Game About More Than Making Shots

The long hair just wasn’t working for Jayson Tatum.

After opening up the NBA’s seeding games against the Milwaukee Bucks with one of the worst games of his career, something had to change.

So, he took some weight off his shoulders (literally) and buzzed his head. And after a quiet start in the opening minutes of the Boston Celtics’ game against the Portland Trail Blazers, Tatum went off.

“I was going to cut my hair before the first game,” Tatum said via NBC Sports Boston’s postgame coverage.

Instead, he kept it because his mother and grandmother wanted him to play at least one game with long hair. Apparently it was one game too many.

 

Tatum led the way with 34 points and a career-high eight assists. His teammates shot 8-for-8 off his passes and he held Damian Lillard to 1-for-5 shooting when primarily defending him.

“I think he obviously was looking forward to playing well today after the other night,” head coach Brad Stevens said of Tatum’s bounce-back performance.

“And it wasn’t just about the ball going in. I think he looked at it and said there’s a lot that I can do to impact the game. He’s just a gifted offensive player and he’s got the vision to go along with it. A lot of good plays. The pass to Jaylen at the end of the game was a very good play. He had several drive and kicks where he just made the right decisions so I thought he played really well.”

Celtics Wrap: Jaylen Brown’s Heroics Help Boston Hold On Vs. Trail Blazers

Here are some other notes from the Celtics-Trail Blazers matchup:

— Jaylen Brown’s performance, especially in the clutch, was no surprise.

His 16 points in the fourth quarter helped him finish with 30 points, six boards and two steals, shooting 55 percent from the field and hitting six of eight 3-point attempts. He was consistent all game, but you could see the switch in the fourth when Portland took the lead.

Naturally, Stevens thought Brown was “enormous” Sunday night.

“I think Jaylen’s shot-making was probably as critical as anything else to the game,” Stevens said. “… When they took the lead and then we held on with a couple of transition baskets and Jaylen’s huge threes, that was great. We’re going to be in this position again. That was a great way to respond.”

And with five defensive boards and two steals, his defensive impact was imperative.

“It’s not about the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog,” Brown said when asked about successfully defending against double big lineups. “If we fight, I like our chances against anybody.”

— It seemed everything was going down for the Boston Celtics, especially if it came from beyond the arc.

Five Celtics reached double-digit scoring, including Enes Kanter, Kemba Walker and Gordon Hayward, who added eight rebounds and three assists in a great two-way performance.

As a team, they shot an impressive 54.5 percent from the field and 60 percent from the three-point range.

— Walker, still on a minutes restriction, looked great once again. In 22 minutes, he shot 5-for-6 from the field with 14 points.

Of course, he would have liked to be out there in crunch time, but he didn’t get to choose.

“I didn’t really have a choice honestly,” Walker said when asked about dealing with the emotions of not being able to help his team in crunch time.

“Brad was not putting me back in. It doesn’t even matter what kind of emotions I’ve got or anything. He’s not going over the restriction limits so it don’t matter. My best bet is to stay positive and cheer my teammates on to the best of my ability.”

— Kanter (11 points, one block in 20 minutes played) proved to be a great matchup against the Blazers at the five coming off the bench.

The center pulled down eight rebounds, five on offense and was the Celtics’ second-highest scorer in the first half behind Tatum.

“I thought our bigs did a fantastic job with pick and roll coverage the entire day,” Stevens said. “Enes and Theis were where they were needed to be, way up.”

Stevens didn’t read too much into the defensive breakdowns seen in the end of the third and the fourth quarter. Instead, he chalked it up to his team trying to “pick their poison” trying to contain the trio of Lillard, C.J. McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic.

“It’s a joke how good they are,” Stevens praised. “When the guards got going off I thought it was because we went under the screens. That may have been the wear and tear of guarding those guys the first half and how hard you have to play and what you need to do to take those threes away. You can’t go under them, and at the same time it’s easier for me to say than do actually do it because they set the angles of those screens.

— Brown started his postgame press conference thanking the NBA for allowing players to peacefully protest racial injustice and police brutality by kneeling for the national anthem.

“Angela Davis once said that racism is so dangerous not because of individual actors but because it’s deeply embedded in the apparatus,” Brown said. “I think about that quote a lot when I think about the national anthem.”

Here’s the full quote:

— Since Sunday technically was a Celtics “home game,” some fan favorites were seen virtually in the stands.

Paul Pierce, Jayson Tatum’s son Deuce and Kemba Walker’s mother Andrea had some decent seats right near each other.

More Celtics: NBA Fans Convinced Viral Tomato Looks Like Celtics Legend Larry Bird

Thumbnail photo via Ashley Landis/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports Images

Picked For You