Stephen A. Smith’s Case For ‘Different Outcome’ In Celtics-Heat Game 7

'This is the Jayson Tatum that dropped 51'


May 30, 2023

Stephen A. Smith isn’t convinced the Boston Celtics would’ve been doomed for the eventual blowout loss that ended their season had it not been for a first-quarter ankle injury to Jayson Tatum.

On the very first play of a potential history-setting Game 7 against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals, Tatum suffered an eventual night-altering ankle injury after a layup attempt, hindering his production level. It was a set match between Boston and Miami as the C’s were never able to overcome Tatum’s struggles, nor were they ever competitive enough to re-take a lead beyond the first quarter, playing catch for the final 39 minutes at TD Garden.

Boston’s dreadful night posed a speculative (yet meaningless) question afterward: Would the Celtics be in the NBA Finals if Tatum never rolled his ankle?

“I think that Jayson Tatum, a superstar in this game, may have experienced an entirely different outcome if Jayson Tatum hadn’t rolled over and twisted his ankle, the first offensive play of the game,” Smith said Tuesday on ‘The Stephen A. Smith Show.’ “… This is the Jayson Tatum that dropped 51 in a Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the (Philadelphia 76ers).

“This is the same Jayson Tatum that has career averages in Game 7’s of 28.8 points, okay? 28.8 points, on 50% shooting and 48% shooting from 3-point range. This is the Jayson Tatum widely recognized as the best player — if not universally recognized as the best player on the Boston Celtics. 6’9″ with a handle, a (jump shot), can finish at the rim, can finish in the open court. That Jayson Tatum.”

The Celtics were already handicapped from the very start.

Malcolm Brogdon, who won Sixth Man of the Year and was sidelined for Game 6, was clearly impacted by his lingering elbow injury, sat down by head coach Joe Mazzulla after seven minutes played in Game 7 and three missed shot attempts.

Yet, regardless of Tatum’s health misfortunes, he’d been putrid relative to the standards of an All-NBA talent beforehand over the course of the series. Tatum shot 11-for-47 from 3-point range for the series, required two no-show games to just make a shot in the fourth quarter and rarely ever matched the intensity of Jimmy Butler that propelled Miami over the top this postseason.

New year, a different story, but the same ending for the Celtics.

Thumbnail photo via Rich Storry/USA TODAY Sports Images
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