BOSTON — Celtics star Jayson Tatum played in plenty of big games throughout his career. He even played in the NBA Finals two seasons ago.

But that didn’t stop the butterflies from surfacing Thursday night as Tatum led the Celtics into Game 1 of Finals against the Dallas Mavericks at TD Garden.

“To be honest, I was nervous. I ain’t going to lie. I was nervous in like an anxious way, as a little kid,” Tatum said. “It’s surreal being in the Finals. When you’re young in your career, you think you’re always going to go back. Last year was kind of like a wake-up call when we didn’t make it.”

Tatum and the Celtics are trying to make better use of this opportunity after falling to the Golden State Warriors on the elevated stage in 2022. They certainly got off to the right start with Boston rolling to a 107-89 victory.

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Tatum wasn’t the standout performer of the night, though — that distinction went to Jaylen Brown and Kristaps Porzingis. Some of that nervousness seemed to impact Tatum’s play even though he posted a double-double of 16 points and 11 rebounds to go along with five assists in 42 minutes. He shot 6-for-16 from the floor and was too loose with the ball at times, committing a game-high six turnovers.

The pressure certainly is on Tatum to perform at the highest of levels when the lights are the brightest. But he’s not trying to get too caught up in that with the Celtics just three wins away from an NBA title.

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“Just staying present, staying in the moment,” Tatum said. “Like I said, I was in a positive way, I was nervous before the game. I was like a kid first day of school. I know how exciting and big of a deal all of this is, so just finding a space to enjoy the moment and have fun playing basketball.”

Featured image via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images