Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum had yet another post-All-Star Game slump of a showing Monday night against the New York Knicks.
Much like Tatum’s fellow Boston teammates, the 24-year-old couldn’t find his rhythm on the floor. And perhaps it was that frustration, coupled with New York’s continuous scoring runs on the other end, that boiled over and sent Tatum to the locker room early.
In the fourth quarter while the Celtics trailed in need of a desperate final push, Tatum came off a screen from teammate Al Horford at the top of the key. Tatum then attempted a 3-pointer but appeared to have his airspace invaded by Knicks’ Julius Randle, who also made contact with his arm. This understandably left Tatum disgruntled, which he expressed. On the next possession, after Josh Hart nailed a three for New York, Tatum jawed at one of the officials and received his second technical foul to give him his first career ejection.
Following the contest, Tatum revealed what he said that earned him the early exit.
“I feel like he smacked my arm,” Tatum told reporters, as seen on NBC Sports Boston’s postgame coverage. “Yeah, it didn’t go my way. I mean, it’s tough. The first one, no call. If you look, it was clearly a foul. And those are the ones that’s tough, you’ll get a tech for something that you thought was right about. Second one, I just told him, ‘This was probably the best-officiated game I’ve been a part of.’ Trynna give him a compliment. Didn’t go over so well.”
Tatum added: “I said it was the best-officiated game I’ve been a part of. I meant it.”
The missed call wasn’t the only one that stuck with Tatum.
In the third quarter Tatum finished a two-handed dunk off a feed from Grant Williams. However, after hanging on the rim and reacting after what he felt was a foul in the play, Tatum was issued his first technical foul.
“The first one came from the reaction from the dunk,” Tatum said. “That one was tough because they clearly glided me to the rim. Two hands on my back, that would’ve been scary, right? If I didn’t hold onto the rim. I was upset about that.”
Tatum finished with an uncharacteristic 14 points on 6-of-18 shooting from the field and 1-of-9 from beyond the arc in 36 minutes. That performance made for Tatum’s fourth night of 20 or fewer points in the last seven games for Boston. He also shot just a single free throw.
Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla shared an encouraging message to the All-Star himself following the overall underwhelming night across the board.
“Just play through it,” Mazzulla said, as seen on NBC Sports Boston’s postgame coverage. “Just continue to play through it. Continue to sharpen how defenses are guarding you, where the space is, how to create that space. Just work through it.”