The Boston Celtics were in dire need of something prior to Game 4.
Boston’s backs were against the wall prior to the do-or-die contest, trailing their Eastern Conference finals series with the Miami Heat three games to none. Given the poor efforts put forth in each of those three games, it was apparent that following along that same path was out of the question for the Celtics if they hoped to keep their season alive. The problem was, finding that change is often easier said than done.
In the minutes following the Celtics’ win in Game 4, which sent the series back to TD Garden for a pivotal Game 5 for both squads, it became clear what Boston needed and got — a gentle reminder from its superstar.
Jayson Tatum pulled the Celtics together during a television timeout in the second half of Tuesday’s win, giving a rare speech to his teammates that involved more talking than anyone is accustomed to hearing from the mild-mannered superstar.
“He was just letting guys know, ‘We’re here!'” Marcus Smart said postgame, per NBA-provided video. “‘Just keep going. It’s not going to be easy, but we’re going to win this game. We just gotta keep playing the right way.’ Then he came out and led by example. He got the block and he’s helping — getting rebounds, making his shots and making the right plays. When you’ve got a guy like Jayson and Jaylen (Brown), who’s leading the way by example, everyone else falls in line.”
The four-time All-Star finished with 33 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists, two blocks and one steal in the win. That isn’t exactly a shocking performance from a guy who made first team All-NBA this season, but the way in which he went about it was a bit surprising.
Tatum’s personality is unlike most other NBA superstars. That much has been especially evident over the last few seasons, with Boston facing fiery types like Jimmy Butler, Joel Embiid, Trae Young and Draymond Green over their last few postseason series. Instead of talking and letting emotion influence the way he plays, Tatum — when locked in — is a stone-cold killer. The first 24 minutes of Game 4 were just like the other three games of the series, with Tatum fumbling the ball around and pleading for calls to the officials. The second he stopped doing that, Boston’s fortunes turned around for the better.
The calm, cool and collected approach Tatum took to the second half was exactly what the Celtics needed to — as Smart said — fall in line behind the superstar. If that is the example that the C’s can expect from their superstar moving forward, this thing might actually turn into a series.