Early start leads to more late heroics for Tatum


BOSTON – As the Celtics began preparing for an earlier-than-usual game time on Saturday, Jayson Tatum acknowledged he would have spent that time on a normal game day napping away. 

But when needed, Tatum continues to answer the call as he helped escape the Celtics escape with a 116-111 victory over the Phoenix Suns at TD Garden.


Tatum had 15 points, with six coming early in the fourth quarter at a time when Boston needed an offensive lift from someone.

“Well, he certainly has always been a guy that’s been capable of scoring,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “That was something that you knew coming in; that was, everybody you talked to and watching him it was pretty clear that he was always going to be able to score the ball.”

But what we’ve seen from him in his rookie season is his willingness and ability to score in the fourth, which takes some of the scoring load off Kyrie Irving.

According to NBA.com/stats, Tatum averages 4.4 points scored in the fourth quarter which ranks sixth among all rookies, with the five first-year players ahead of him all logging more minutes than his team in the fourth quarter.

Tatum isn’t really sure why he has been one of the Celtics’ better scorers in the fourth.

“I guess it just happens that way. I don’t really think about it,” Tatum said. “I just try and find my opportunity and attack.”

Said Stevens: “He’s got a good fearlessness; he’s got a great demeanor, and he’s obviously extremely skilled. So, he was able to get to the rim on a couple different occasions and make big plays late.”

Kyrie Irving added, “He has the ability to get to open spots and make timely jump-shots as well as make drives to the basket that are uncanny for a young player.”

Here are some other stars, studs and duds from the 116-111 victory over Phoenix:

Devin Booker: It wasn’t quite like the 70-point explosion we saw last time he was at the TD Garden. But Booker’s scoring was once again impressive. He led all players with 38 points on 16-for-29 shooting from the field, along with five assists and four rebounds.

Kyrie Irving: It was a well-balanced scoring night for the Celtics, but once again it was Irving leading the charge. He led six double-figure scorers for Boston with 19 points, which included five points in the final few minutes.

Jaylen Brown: His scoring really helped Boston get off to a nice start, finishing with 17 points – 10 of which came in the first quarter and 15 by halftime.

Jayson Tatum: Like Irving, Tatum was seemingly at his best scoring the ball in the final few minutes of play. He had 15 points for the game, six of which came in the fourth quarter.

T.J. Warren: It wasn’t one of Warren’s most efficient nights scoring the ball, but he did tally 19 points on 8-for-19 shooting.

Al Horford: Big Al was wheelin’ and dealin’ all game for Boston, finishing with a double-double of 14 points and a career-high 11 assists to go with five rebounds and a blocked shot. 

Celtics rebounding: Boston has been in a bit of a funk lately when it comes to rebounding. The Suns (45-31) were the latest team to get the best of them on the glass. While the Celtics rank 10th this season in rebounds per game (45.0), opponents have gotten the best of them on the boards in their past six games. In that span, Boston averages 36.7 rebounds per game which ranks 28th in the NBA.


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