The Boston Celtics are staring down an 0-2 deficit in the Eastern Conference Finals and it's pretty clear what they need to do to get back in the series. Give Jayson Tatum the ball and let him cook. I'm not saying he needs to go full hero ball, but he needs to get aggressive and become the superstar he's supposed to be.
On Thursday night Tatum took just 12 field goal attempts. He only attempted two shots in the fourth quarter. One resulted in three free throws and the other was a dunk to give the Celtics the lead with 4:57 left in the game. He did not record another statistic during the final four-plus minutes.
Tatum's 12 attempts were his lowest total of the playoffs. He only took 12 or fewer shots three times during the entire season. Two of those were back-to-back games early in the restart. Kemba Walker (19), Jaylen Brown (14) and Marcus Smart (13) all took more shots than Tatum did on Thursday. Meanwhile, Tatum was the most effective shooter against the Miami Heat's zone defense this season.
Tatum was an All-Star for the first time this season. He averaged career highs in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. He shot 40 percent from 3-point range on more than seven attempts per game. He is the Celtics' best player and he's leading the league in minutes per game during the playoffs.
Tatum struggled during the fourth quarter and overtime of Game 1, but it's safe to say the Celtics wouldn't have been in a position to blow that game without the 23 points he scored in the first three quarters. If the Celtics are going to come back in this series, Tatum is the key. He's the star. The other guys need to pitch it, not carry the load.
It's a lot to ask a 22 year old to do, but it's not impossible. LeBron James carried Larry Hughes and Sasha Pavlovic to the Finals at 22. Kobe Bryant won his second ring when he was 22. That's who Tatum is supposed to be for Boston. So he better get those shots up.