Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum had his worst shooting performance of the season Sunday in a 109-97 win over the Toronto Raptors.
Tatum was 2-for-16 from the floor for a season-low eight points.
Still, Celtics head coach Ime Udoka was encouraged by the All-Star’s performance.
And a major aspect of that had to do with the fact Tatum compiled a season-high 10 assists and seven rebounds to go along with it. Tatum, especially down the stretch with the Celtics needing a fourth-quarter run to pull away, got teammates involved with the Raptors focusing on him.
“We decided to take him off the ball, their focus was there, their shifts and their crowd when he was handling, wanted to move around a little bit, get him on the second side and try to loosen them up there and then attack from there,” Udoka said of Tatum, as seen on NBC Sports Boston’s postgame coverage. “Got him down hill. He didn’t have the greatest shooting night, obviously, but 10 assists, we’ll take that anytime.”
Udoka specifically acknowledged Boston’s mindset of drive and kick. It went a long way in the C’s recording 24 assists on 34 made baskets.
“I think it was very noticeable that we were penetrating and kicking against a team that’s going to show bodies, and like I said, we live with the results there,” Udoka said. “We shot it OK, we could have shot it a little better, but we got five guys in double figures without Jayson being one of them. … So, keep playing the right way, shots are going to fall. We hit some big ones late and keep relying on our defense.”
Marcus Smart also spoke about Tatum’s performance. Smart is hoping Tatum putting others in position can turn into more made shots for the group.
“It’s been tough for him, and he’s been doing a good job of really finding guys and we got to reward him for that,” Smart said, as seen on NBC Sports Boston. “And that’s only going to open up things for him and Jaylen (Brown) later in the games like that if we, and other players, myself included, can knock down those shots.”
The Celtics, who improved to 11-10 on the season with the win, now return to TD Garden to face the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday.