BOSTON — Jayson Tatum joked about it initially, but maybe the Boston Celtics star was on to something.
Perhaps Tatum really did leave his stellar shooting and All-Star form in Utah while playing in the league’s marquee exhibition event because he sure hadn’t looked like himself since the extended break. He even had his frustrations boil over in New York on Monday, receiving his first career ejection in a loss to the Knicks.
But back in the comfort of his home arena Wednesday night, Tatum snapped back to playing like an MVP candidate.
Tatum broke out of his mini slump in a 117-113 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers at TD Garden, scoring a team-high 41 points on 13-of-21 shooting to go along with 11 rebounds and eight assists. It was the ninth time this season Tatum has recorded at least 40 points in a single game.
Tatum has a knack for bouncing back after rough outings and for him, it starts with blocking out the outside noise and having the right mindset.
“Not listening to you guys when I play bad,” Tatum said. “It’s a long season, it’s 82 games. Nobody has a great day of work every day of the year. Everybody has bad days, I guess. You got to take the good days with the bad days. I say it all the time, I never get too high, I never get too low. Regardless of what happened, you can’t change it. Just got to get ready for the next one and move on.”
It took a little bit for Tatum to warm up against the Cavaliers, but throwing down a thunderous put-back dunk early in the second quarter got him going. Tatum really took over in the third quarter, getting to the basket and draining two 3-pointers to net 18 points in the stanza.
By that point, any signs of a slump were long gone. Tatum also credited getting the free-throw line, where he hit 11-of-14 attempts, for helping him get back on track.
“It wasn’t like I was discouraged or worried that I hadn’t shot the ball that great out the break,” Tatum said. “Just came in with the mindset of trying to find a way to win.”