Arbella Early Edition

How Tatum's ‘fingerprints were all over' Game 1 win vs. Mavs

Chris Forsberg explains why the box score doesn't tell the full story of Tatum's Game 1 performance.

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The Boston Celtics didn't need Jayson Tatum to light up the box score to beat the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of the 2024 NBA Finals.

Tatum finished Thursday's series opener with a modest 16 points on a less-than-stellar 6-of-16 shooting. The five-time All-Star also had a game-high six turnovers in an offensive performance he'd probably like to forget.

Still, he found a way to leave his mark on the Celtics' 117-89 victory.

Tatum led all players with 11 rebounds and tied for a game-high five assists. He had the second-highest plus-minus (+19), trailing only teammate Jrue Holiday (+20). In addition, he played rock-solid defense to limit the Mavs' secondary scorers.

On Friday's Early Edition, our Celtics insider Chris Forsberg issued a message to those hung up on Tatum's lack of scoring.

"Did you all see how every time he started to drive, there was three black jerseys swarming him and he was forced to make the right play? Something he has done consistently throughout these playoffs?" Forsberg asked. "I agree the turnovers are maddening, especially for a team that has fallen prey to those in the Finals in past seasons, but I thought Jayson made the right play. And I thought early on he was aggressive, especially on the glass, which is exactly what he needs to be in this series.

"Defensively, did you hear (Mavericks big men Daniel) Gafford or (Dereck) Lively's name called a whole lot last night? Did they do any lobs from Luka (Doncic) last night? You wanna know why? Because Tatum was denying them the ability to get to the basket. We get so caught up in the scoring and the efficiency and certainly the turnovers, but I thought his fingerprints were all over this game. And part of being a superstar is not only putting up the numbers but doing the stuff that the casual observer does not either see or understand. And from the potential assists to the defense, Tatum was a superstar last night."

Fellow analyst Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated noted that while he would have liked to have seen Tatum be more aggressive at the rim, he was satisfied with his overall performance.

"I know we all want to see Jayson Tatum go off for 25, 30, 35 points," he said. "But when you have guys on your team that are cooking -- and (Kristaps) Porzingis was cooking in that first half, Jaylen Brown got it going in that second half -- you don't wanna be taking four shots. It's OK to be a decoy on a team like this if the other guys are making shots. Derrick White, we haven't even talked about him, he was making shots in the first half of that game.

"So I had no problem overall with the way that Jayson Tatum played. If he could just clean up the turnovers and play with a little more force at the rim, I think he would have had an excellent game."

Tatum admitted he experienced some nerves heading into Thursday night's game. Now that the Game 1 jitters are out of the way, we should expect a bounce-back offensive performance from the first-team All-NBA selection when the series resumes Sunday night at TD Garden.

You can watch the full Early Edition segment below, or on YouTube:

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