After, arguably, the worst game of his young career, Jayson Tatum ignited the critics on Saturday as his Celtics dropped Game 3 in Milwaukee.
In a 2-1 hole now, the Cs are facing a lot of pressure to win in Game 4 if they really want to keep their season alive.
Tatum, who shot 4-19 on the night, spoke up about his play and the need to play better.
“Obviously I expect to play better,” Tatum said. “I’m gonna be ready Monday trying to get a win. I’m not gonna make it about me or anything like that. I gotta be better. I know that. My teammates know that.”
Tatum has emerged as a superstar in these playoffs. As an elite two-way player, he led Boston to the 2nd seed in the East before leading them to an impressive series sweep over the Brooklyn Nets in Round 1.
With the whole world watching, he outplayed Kevin Durant and officially put the basketball world on notice. One NBA Scout even said he'd pick Tatum over the 2x Champion Durant:
"What we are witnessing is Tatum and Brown and that group entering their prime, whereas (Durant) is on the back end of the prime," said an NBA scout. " Those guys are not chopped liver, man. I mean, I’ll tell you right now, obviously, I think most people think if you (evaluate) his career that Durant is a better player than (the 24-year-old) Tatum. I mean, if nothing else, it’s the track record. But if you gave me a choice of which one I would take from this point forward, it’s not even close to me. … To me, if you’re watching the game and you didn’t know who these guys were, I’m not watching Durant (and saying), “That’s the best player on the floor.” I’m not so sure Tatum’s not (the best)."
After the worst game of his life, one has to expect that Tatum will play like himself in Game 4, and like the superstar we've seen over the past year.
If not, it could spell an early end to the Celtics' cinderella run this year.
Regardless, one thing is clear: this series is all about Tatum, and his play from here on out will be one of the biggest factors in how it all turns out.