The Celtics’ dominance was on display in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, and it was another banner night for Jayson Tatum critics.

Boston earned a blowout win over the Dallas Mavericks at TD Garden on Thursday night. It was a total team effort from Joe Mazzulla’s side with Kristaps Porzingis and Jaylen Brown leading the Green in scoring.

Tatum had a fine outing. He scored 16 points off 6-for-16 shooting. He also had 11 rebounds and five assists in 42 minutes. The six turnovers were concerning, but on the surface, Boston didn’t need the 26-year-old in Game 1.

That’s the primary narrative coming out of Thursday night and will persist heading into Game 2 on Sunday. For all the complaints about analytics, critics can’t seem to look beyond the box score when it comes to Tatum.

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One of the keys to the Celtics’ victory was Boston’s relentless effort to drive to the basket. Luka Doncic often was the target of switches, and the Mavericks superstar wasn’t able to stay in front of his man. Tatum led the C’s with 18 drives, and he was the one who set the tone for the team’s offensive game plan. It’s the kind of impact you look for in a superstar player.

The turnovers were an unfortunate side effect of that, but Tatum has been excellent this postseason in driving to the basket and reading how the defense reacts to him. He arguably could have had more assists and could have come close to a triple-double if some of the shots of his passes went down. But Tatum came through as a playmaker and kept the ball moving.

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A critical error that doomed the Celtics in the 2022 NBA Finals was how often the offense stagnated. Tatum struggled to find his shot and read the Golden State Warriors defense. He’s improved dramatically in that area, and it’s a huge reason why everyone else on the team can thrive.

On the defensive side, Mazzulla had Tatum on the bigs or Derrick Jones Jr. Boston did a fantastic job at staying home on Doncic drives and not allowing him to be the puppet master like he was in the Western Conference finals. Celtics defenders were able to help and use their length to slow down Doncic and Kyrie Irving and force them to make tough shots, which they rarely did.

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Tatum’s impact as a driver and a help defender aren’t going to show up on the stat sheet nor are they impressive like Brown’s highlight blocks. But they are just as important and arguably qualities you want in a superstar player. Tatum is playing a complete game, and it’s only a matter of time until he shows in the stat sheet in the NBA Finals.

Featured image via Peter Casey/USA TODAY Sports Images