Jayson Tatum, Celtics Fall Short Against Nuggets…Again

For the second game in a row, Jayson Tatum had the ball with in his hands with a chance to give the Celtics a lead late in a close game on the road.

And for the second time, Tatum and the Celtics fell short.

Tatum missed a wide open corner 3 with 45 seconds to play that would have put Boston up 1 on the Denver Nuggets with a chance to win. The Nuggets turned the miss into a basket going the other way and that was that. The Celtics fell to the Nuggets for the second time this season 115-109 the final.

After a relatively hot start (8 first quarter points, 2-for-2 3pt FG) Tatum disappeared. He finished the game with 15 points on 5-for-13 shooting with 8 assists, 4 rebounds, and 5 sloppy and costly turnovers in 39 minutes.

Tatum did this on a night when Jaylen Brown went off for a season high 41 points. Kristaps Porzingis added 24 points and 12 rebounds. Even a little bit from Tatum would have been enough, but it just never came.

“Yeah, I think with the dynamic of our team, when other guys kind of got it going and are in a rhythm, a flow, you gotta space the floor,” Tatum said. “We always talk about respecting other people’s space. I’m always aware of what’s going on during a game, whether it’s JB or KP had it going or finding mismatches. Like respecting their space at times. If that calls for being in the corner or passing them the ball, and that’s what we’re trying to do in that possession, you gotta honor that.”

Taking a back seat from scoring is fine if you’re doing all the other little things necessary to win. But as has been the case at time before, Tatum’s offensive woes carried over to the rest of his game. In addition to the aforementioned 5 turnovers Tatum was passive on the boards, sloppy in transition and got lost too often on defense.

“Turnovers, free throws, just missing defensive assignments. All that stuff we gotta be better at,” Brown said. “It starts with me, starts with the top, starts with Jayson [Tatum.] We made so many mistakes and it cost us in the end.”

Credit the Nuggets, they did everything they could to take Tatum off his game, blitzing and trapping him and trying to force the ball out of his hands.

“They were just trying to break his {Tatum’s] rhythm a little bit not allow him to get going make him settle for some isolation shots and thats why we’ve got to find different spots to help him out. “Brown added via NBC Sports Boston. “But, also when you do get those opportunities you have to be more aggressive, transition opportunities and when you do get the mismatches you got to go right away.”

The Celtics meanwhile threw the kitchen sink at Nikola Jokic to try and slow him down. But unlike Tatum, Jokic had an answer to everything Boston tried. The two time (soon to be 3-time) NBA MVP finished with a 32-point, 12-rebound, 11-assist triple-double.

“Every detail matters when you’re playing against another great team,” head coach Joe Mazzulla added. “They were able to take advantage of some of those margins there. But so that’s the stuff that we’ll learn from.”

It’s late in the season to be learning lessons. The Celtics have now lost consecutive games for the first time since November. Tatum did himself and the team no favors Tuesday against the Cleveland Cavaliers going 1-for-12 in the second half while the Cavs erased a 22 point 4th quarter deficit. If the Celtics are going to win on the biggest stage against high caliber opponents, they are going to need more from their best player.

“I thought he was just taking what the defense gave him,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said. “Jaylen had a tremendous game. The matchup with Kristaps, we were able to take advantage of that. I thought [Tatum did] what he thought the game needed.”


John Zannis

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